Friday, January 29, 2010

The Pros and Cautions of Volunteering

My volunteer work with WISE has finally gotten underway. WISE (Women's Information Service) is the local crisis center here that deals with sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. It is a wonderful place with wonderful people, and I couldn't be happier about volunteering here. The building is warm and homey, and the best thing about it is that there are dogs! I love dogs. They're big, lovely, friendly dogs, and they definitely add a touch of comforting personality to what could otherwise be an intimidating place. Unless you don't like dogs, I suppose. :-(

It looks like I won't be able to do actual crisis work (i.e. staffing the 24-hour hotline) because I am leaving the States just a few days before the February training session and then the next session is so late in the spring that I will pretty much be leaving Hanover right after it is done. The project I'm currently working on does feel very rewarding, though. I am reorganizing, editing, and updating the volunteer advocate resource manual. So far I have reorganized some chapters and moved around bits of information that seemed out-of-place, and now I am going through each organization listing one by one and verifying the organization name, address, phone number(s), and website. There are definitely things that are out-of-date, so I feel useful, not just like some glorified copy-editor.

Last night, while I was going through the list of local crisis centers and particularly their 24-hour hotlines, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the volunteers who keep them running. It was so touching and humbling to realize exactly how many organizations there are just in the New Hampshire/Vermont area, how many crisis lines there are, and therefore how many people are needed to staff them so they can be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Dear volunteers, you're the best.

Even though my work is superbly rewarding, I am starting to realize that overexposure is possible. Last night I was reading a movie summary for Precious (having known nothing about its plot) to see if I wanted to go see it, and I discovered that rape/incest play a pretty big part in the movie. Then I found out that Slumdog Millionaire also involves rape. I went a little numb in that way I always do when rape gets brought up, and so I couldn't work on my applications. Instead I decided to do some more work with the resource manual. That basically involved looking up websites for crisis center after crisis center, and therefore thinking about sexual assault and domestic violence for two hours. I didn't think much of it, and in fact felt pretty good about doing something useful, but then I couldn't sleep last night. I got a few hours of very restless sleep towards the morning, but anxiety is still fluttering in my stomach and I don't quite feel right. I think it is from overexposure to issues surrounding rape the last few days (since quite a few of my application essays talk about my experiences as well).

I am learning to set boundaries, though. A year ago I probably would have followed the compulsion to continue steeping myself in these issues until someone rescued me. However, I am trying to set healthy boundaries now. As worried as I am about time and trying to get my applications done before I leave for Thailand, I am giving myself a break today. I simply don't think I could get anything done in this anxious and wonky mood I'm in. D* is coming up this evening, and I am very much looking forward to getting to see him. Hopefully the weekend will reset things and I can start seriously working again on Monday.

Aww, D* just called me on his lunch break, just because. :)  Yay for much-needed smiles.

Anyway, I think I am off to go do mindless productive things today. Cheerio!

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