A little over a year ago, Jen and Mad celebrated their first anniversary of social justice marriage, and a year of encouraging online activism in a little corner of the blogosphere with the Just Posts. As part of that celebration, they asked for Just Post participants to consider giving a gift: to take our activism beyond the online world, and to commit to volunteerism. In the real world. I scribbled a hasty I-owe-you of a post, promising to them (and to myself) that I would write more about my past volunteer work, and to find a way to do more volunteer work.
I’m ashamed to say that I have made no substantial progress in that area since that post. My main excuse has been overload. At the time I was teaching a class, trying to plow forward with my research job and degree-related projects, and suffering from first trimester morning sickness. Since then, I was busier than ever getting ready for conferences, traveling, and trying to move forward with my degree before my impending due date. Then I was busy with parenting a newborn and a toddler, while still trying to keep a foot in my research job.
I really want to do volunteer work, but I haven’t found the time or energy.
Theo will soon start daycare, and I will then need to work harder at making up hours I owe from my not-quite-maternity-leave stretch. With two children in daycare, the costs of childcare and occasional commuting to my job will probably just about equal my net income from my graduate stipend. John is super busy with his work, and already putting in long hours at parenting as it is. We can’t reasonably take time away from his work time or mine for me to have a few child-free hours to put into volunteering.
But I have an idea.
My hope is that I can find meaningful volunteer work where I can bring along Phoebe and Theo. I would like them to grow up with the acceptance of service as being a normal part of life, and including them seems a good way to further that goal.
So, my plan is to start investigating ways that I can volunteer with a baby and toddler in tow. I am very much open to suggestions, and would love to hear from any who have experience doing such things. Jen has inspired me on many occasions with her mentions of bringing her daughter M along with her to work in homeless shelters. Holly wrote about the doors opened for her in her research on public health by bringing along her small children.
My past volunteer work with resettled refugees was very important to me. I signed on as an ESL tutor, with goals of gaining experience that might be applicable to my studies and career. What I found, though, was that I was often able to help in more ways that just helping with language: I helped negotiate bureaucracy, helped interpret bills and other notices that came in the mail, and answered questions about life in the US.
It has occurred to me that many refugee (and other immigrant) families also have small children. I love the idea of getting together with such a family to help with their English or otherwise provide insight into US culture, and having Phoebe and Theo along with me to play with and get to know young kids from another culture. I’m hoping to find an organization that will be amenable to such an arrangement.
My next step is to start contacting some groups. I’ve identified two or three that I’ll try, and I plan to send some emails. I’ll try to have an update of my progress next month.