Friday, September 30, 2005

Why I'm a 4-H Volunteer

This is National 4-H week, when we traditionally recognize our volunteers. People typically assume that I volunteer because I'm such a generous person. My actual reasons are much more self-serving. I am a person who is easily bored, who is nosey enough to want to know everyone in my community, not just those who are like myself. I hunger to meet smart people, and I want to be privy to the latest research. I don't have a lot of time, so I want my time as a volunteer to be respected. I want to be respected, as more than just a mom who deals cards.

4-H is uniformly supportive of its volunteers. 4-H volunteers can offer as much or as little time as they want. We are provided with the latest research on children’s issues. The 4-H office helps with the big things (like liability insurance) and the little things (like notifying club members when I was too sick to hold a meeting, or even to talk on the phone.)

4-H volunteers are respected members of the community. Our 4-H Extension agent simply will not allow her volunteers to be anything less, or to be treated as anything less. She is available to listen to problems, offer solutions, or to discuss issues directly with parents. I am free to offer the benefits of Chess Club to all interested kids, not just the well-behaved ones.

4-H doesn't waste my time with the last decade's agenda; 4-H is continually seeking to ask and answer the question: What Do Kids Need Now?

We challenge ourselves to identify and fill in the gaps. It may be on an individual basis; I will bring in art supplies for a second grader who needs to draw to get over the stress of a challenging chess game.

County-wide, we ask the same question, creating a program of swimming instruction or writing grants to fund quality child care for low-income families.

No other organization has the latitude and mission to ask and answer this critical question.

Working as a 4-H volunteer has kept me sane when my paying job seemed bent on driving me crazy. As the mother of three girls, I love how 4-H keeps me in touch with the energetic and entertaining world of boys. 4-H volunteers are among the most interesting nd forward thinking people around. The fact that the program is open to all kids means that I meet a lot of people that would otherwise pass me by.

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