Saturday, January 16, 2010

How I Got Hooked on Helping Others

By Klara Kang

Some people are born with the desire to help others and don’t have any difficulty engaging in extracurricular activities. Others may need a little push or an inspiration. In my case, it was the push that got me started and later an inspiration that kept me going.
About five years ago, when I was on a spiritual quest to find a church to join, I got more than I anticipated. Not only did I discover a place that was welcoming and kid-friendly, I was also included in their various community services right away. I was invited to join their education committee and within a few months of active participation I was elected the new chair of the committee. I was quite frightened at first to hold such an important position but I overcame that fear in no time. I have since managed to contribute to many wonderful causes. My responsibilities include leading all meetings, scheduling classes for kids and adults, inviting special speakers, working with the budget, organizing special events and fundraisers, and collecting applications for a church-sponsored scholarship. Can you see what is happening? I am developing great leadership skills along the way that can be applied to other aspects of my life, especially my future career. Now you know why they say that volunteer work is rewarding – that is aside from feeling great about doing something for others.
My other passion, being an active supporter of a non-profit organization named GAIA (Global Aids Interfaith Alliance) came to me by accident, or inspiration. I was at a friend’s birthday party and she mentioned her trip to Africa where she volunteered as a medical doctor. She said that GAIA works to empower women and children in Malawi, Africa and that she personally treated many people there who have AIDS. I learned that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world and that many people die of AIDS because there is no treatment available to them. That’s why she took the time to go and bring medicine to a small Malawian village. I was amazed! I knew how busy her life was, being a mom and a doctor with her own private office as well as working for two hospitals, all at the same time. Her phone and beeper always go off even when she is not on call. But somehow she managed to find time to go to Malawi (with her own money) and help save lives of countless people. I thought - if she can find the time for volunteer work, then anyone can! I immediately felt the urge to help her and within a few weeks I organized a collection of school supplies in my church that my friend took with her on her next trip to Malawi. When she came back that summer, she brought with her about 50 pictures the Malawian children drew for us as thank you notes for the supplies. I keep those pictures in a big scrapbook reminding me every day that those children’s very lives depend on the selfless work of people like my friend. It became my moral obligation to help support the work of GAIA. Did I mention how addictive it is? Seeing those children smile as they clutch their boxes of markers close to their starved bodies is priceless. I am not a doctor and I cannot treat their illnesses but I made their days a bit brighter.
Therefore, when the time came to plan my birthday party last week, I decided to dedicate it to GAIA. I asked my friends to donate money to GAIA instead of buying me gifts. My doctor friend and I made a presentation about her work and I am glad to report that my guests were as smitten as I was the first time I heard the story. Everyone donated large amounts of money and I was able to raise much more than I expected. It truly was the best birthday party I ever had.
I got involved with GAIA by accident, but I recommend you don’t wait for something to fall in your lap. Actively look for ways to get involved and don’t miss out on the most rewarding ways to enrich your life. Not sure where to start? Post on the blog, ask questions, post suggestions or stop by the Honor’s House to learn how you could get involved.


  1. Very well-written! Thanks for the inspiring words =)

  2. Dear klara,
    Your essay really touched me.I used to be a very active volunteer in my country but since i came here to US, my life has become very monotonous; school to home, home to work and that's it. Your essay made me realize what i have missed the whole time.I admire your doctor friend and you for a very good thing that you are doing.In this world full of greed, the deeds you guys are doing makes a whole lot of difference. I am glad that i accidently read this blog. And thank you for a push.Oh by the way I am sujata Gurung and I am a nursing student in laGuardia and a very dormant member of pTK..

  3. Dear Sujata,
    I am glad you have stumbled upon the Barbaric Yawp! I understand the hardships of our everyday lives and the difficulty of finding some extra time. However, I encourage you to get started again in some of the volunteer work you use to do. I promise you will find it very rewarding. Did you check out the Phi Theta Kappa website? You will find our upcoming events where you could participate and also the dates for upcoming general meetings where anyone is most welcome (no need to be a PTK member - so grab a friend). Let's work on that dormant status of yours! You can meet with the officers if you need help getting started. Our office hours are also on the website. Keep coming back!:)

  4. Wow, what you and your friend are doing sounds so great! I envy you guys. See, there was the Ondoy typhoon (that was our own version of Hurricane Katrina, you could say); it was followed by two other smaller storms, but they were still quite a blow, since the country hasn't recovered yet. All I could have done about it was help the Filipino community center here pack relief goods and count monetary donations. That wasn't even too helpful, since President Arroyo wanted the help we sent to go through the government, and we have had enough of her interfering. It was very frustrating, really.

    I try to be as active as I used to be back at home, but really, there's this big difference in what I can do now that I'm here. And I mean that in a bad way, you know? It's just frustrating, not being in the thick of things anymore; having your friends go do the dirty work while you're sitting down and watching things happen doesn't make one feel great. I wish I could do a whole lot more than just send relief goods that won't reach the people in time.

  5. Leani,
    you did a great job and you should be proud of yourself. Remember, that all the "little" jobs add up to make a "BIG" impact. Don't beat yourself up about not being able to do more. We all help according to our resources and abilities. Keep up the good work!!! I hope to see you at our meeting.


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