To Volunteer Is To Put Your Own Life into Perspective
Rozzie O., Volunteer Advocate
Two years ago, my youngest child turned five and became much more independent and, frankly, safe around stairs, outlets, grapes and hot dogs, not to mention her new found ability to proudly swing on the swing set without needing a push. I could see the promise of time to do things that sticking to a nap time schedule didn’t permit. I had been eagerly waiting for this moment, a stage a friend had told me about when I was deeply mired in the throes of colicky sweet babies who don’t believe in naps, where I would be able to do more giving back again. She promised that, after many years of asking for help with your infants and toddlers you could have enough time, and finally, mostly, usually enough full nights of sleep to have the energy to pay it forward.
Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade the baby years of my children for anything. They will forever be precious to me and I would never want to rush that time or take it for granted. Yet, as much as I enjoyed our children when they were little, I was excited to begin to rediscover the activities that I used to enjoy, activities that used to define me in my pre-children years. One of these activities was working with survivors of family violence.
Nearly 20 years ago, after personal experiences in high school that gave me an all too close understanding of intimate partner violence, I had had the honor of completing my four years of college work study at the shelter for battered women and children in St.Cloud, Anna Marie’s.
Now, through Alexandra House, I have been afforded the opportunity to again give my time to a cause that I am called to support; ending domestic and sexual violence. I have been thrilled to get back in touch with an organization that works towards this goal.
After completing 50-hours of training with Alexandra House, over a period of two months, I was qualified and ready to be placed in my volunteer assignment. I serve in the Alexandra House Youth Services program and as an On-Call Hospital Advocate.
Because of the great partnership Alexandra House shares with local law enforcement and nearby hospitals, advocates are able to get help and resources to victims every time an emergency room visit is known or suspected to be caused by domestic or sexual violence in Anoka County.
Each and every time someone is bruised, battered, or assaulted and is seen at the hospital, at any hour of the day or night — one of the first calls the medical staff or law enforcement make is to Alexandra House so that the victim can have an advocate by their side as soon as possible. If this isn’t amazing and inspiring in and of itself – to make it even more amazing is that the majority of the overnight on-call shifts are covered by trained volunteers.
During my overnight shifts on-call for the hospital advocacy program there wasn’t a time I wasn’t both hopeful to help but heartbroken to know that someone would need help. When a call would come – usually in the middle of the night, I would drive to the hospital not knowing exactly what support the client would need, or even what physical condition he or she would be in. I would run through the list in my mind of the resources and services available through Alexandra House that needed to be shared with the client so that they would have an opportunity for support and empowerment.
At the hospital, I was welcomed by officers and nurses and once I was with the client I gave words of encouragement, held hands, and provided a friendly face. I offered to be there with them for as long as they wanted me to stay – as an advocate, with the sole purpose of supporting them and their decisions.
To show kindness, hold someone’s hand, tell them they matter.
In the end, to volunteer isn’t to gain recognition. It isn’t to save someone from their situation. It isn’t to remind yourself that you’re better off. To volunteer is to put your own life into perspective and remind you of the blessings you may have missed acknowledging. This is the reason we are asked to serve others: it increases our gratitude, all while taking care of one another.