For many people, myself included, we are often inclined to treat volunteering as an extracurricular activity. It’s a productive use of free time, a chance to give depth to an otherwise ordinary day.
But meeting a passionate volunteer like Jaja happily reminded me that there is more to it than just a pastime—that genuine service touches the soul and changes lives.
During my 3-hour long interview with her, I was deeply moved by how passionately and candidly she shared her volunteer journey with me—from her younger days, to her current volunteer stints, and then to her future plans. To date, she’s been involved in a wide variety of volunteer activities like feeding programs, community immersions, tutorial sessions and playtime with kids.
Jaja is the only law student I know who dreams to be a preschool teacher. During her undergraduate years, her degree in sociology opened her eyes to the different facets of human society, and sparked her passion for teaching young children. Despite her initial doubts and misgivings, Jaja started law school to fulfill her family’s dreams. But amidst all the responsibilities, the expectations and the harsh realizations that came with law school, Jaja always finds the opportunity to share her time with others.
It’s never too early to start volunteering.
There is no such thing as an age requirement because we can never be too young or too old to help.
Jaja considers herself lucky to have started volunteering at an early age. When she was in elementary school, her mom used to bring her to company-sponsored charity events. Young as she was back then, she enjoyed visiting orphanages with her mom and her mom’s colleagues. She fondly recalled that during those events, she was the only kid among the group and it didn’t bother her. During her high school days, her love for service was further reinforced by various school activities and community immersions.
It is indeed remarkable how such simple and ordinary life events molded her into the kind of person she is today. It just goes to show that we don’t need life-changing events to spur us into action, and that we can always start at any given time. Now is the best time to start volunteering and to encourage others—regardless of age—to heed the call of service.
Volunteering is open to everyone.
Whatever we’re capable of, in whatever phase of our life we are in, we can make a difference, an impact.
Jaja is a naturally friendly person. She loves meeting new people and going to new places—alone or with friends. Unlike many people I know, she doesn’t mind going to volunteer activities on her own. But even so, Jaja emphasized that we can all help in our own ways. We don’t need a specific talent or personality because we are good as we are.
There are different ways for which people can contribute—from cooking to distributing food during feeding programs, to playing or teaching the kids, to visiting communities and simply listening to their unique stories. For those who tend to shy away from people, Jaja happily suggested that they can help behind the scenes as photographers, writers, online advocates, and so on.
The opportunity to contribute to society is truly limitless. The key is to find the right avenue that fits our skills and personality. We can come as we are—no pressure and expectation—just genuine passion and kindness.
Volunteering can be our anchor in the rush of life.
It can be the calm amidst the storm, the coffee in the middle of a harsh winter night.
For Jaja, volunteering is a much needed respite, an integral part of her life, a priority among other priorities. It keeps her sane amidst all the pressure heaped up on her shoulders. But more than that, volunteering reminds her to always believe in the goodness of people and the healing power of genuine care.
Jaja recounted the times when law school challenged her belief in humanity and irrevocably changed the way she perceives the world. Law school exposed her to the politics of law, the inconsistencies of the legal system, and the extent to which human rights are violated. She further described how it was oftentimes disheartening to read through hundreds of murder and rape cases—sometimes involving children—that remain unsolved.
But she’s now in her last year of law school, and she would never have survived it with as much positivity as she still has if it weren’t for the volunteer works she’s done along the way. Through the years, she’s made volunteering a priority (apart from law) because she didn’t want the bleak aspects of her education to erase her hope for a better world.
Indeed it is true that as we go through life, we may lose our ideals as we discover the good and the bad this world can offer. Like Jaja, we may encounter experiences that challenge our principles and faith. But service and kindness are everywhere. We only have to look and care enough to make an effort. And the reward of our kindness is the chance to restore our faith, and nurture a life well lived.
Jaja’s volunteer journey is truly inspiring in its simplicity. This is how we build a life of purpose: when we transform kindness to action, and compassion to service. Volunteerism is more than just a part time commitment, but instead, a lifelong journey of love and kindness.
by Lorraine Rañoa, iVolunteer Philippines