Friday, July 10, 2009

Volunteer Vacation

Recently, I've read a few FB posts where friends are reflecting on the long, lazy days of summer while others are bemoaning watching summer slip by from behind panes of hermetically sealed glass. Depending on your perspective, summer can be a break from the usual round of school activities and alarm clocks, or it can just be a more sunny backdrop to the world of spreadsheets, meetings and stress.

For me, it is a bit of a mix. As I write, I can hear the sound of lawn mowers, laughing children and birds's summer here in Pennsylvania and I've got the windows open to the world around me. So, even though the computer screen still glows before me, I do have the glow and the sounds of summer permeating my environment.

One of the important things we look forward to in these summer days, is TIME OFF. Whether we travel to a beloved holiday spot or stay at home, summer gives us the longed for opportunity to do the things we enjoy most by shedding our responsibilities for just a little while.

That kind of break is important. It is important for all of us. And dare I say it? It is very important for volunteers to take a break, too!

For our Net Buddies in South Africa, July is a cold, cold month. But it is holiday time for them, too. At the end of June, our Net Buddies have finished their mid-year school exams. Then they are off for a 3 week school holiday...a much deserved rest.

So, when our Net Buddies are away from school, they are also away from Infinite Family's computer labs. Which means, no video conferences, no writing email, no nothing.

It means that our mentors are on holiday from volunteering!

Although, Infinite Family mentors are usually eager for the break to be over so that they can get back to talking, laughing and enjoying their Net Buddy, I have to say, taking a break is very important for volunteers.

The time away from our responsibilities, even the one's we most enjoy, is important in bringing fresh perspective and renewed energy.

So, even though these twice yearly breaks are built into being a mentor with Infinite Family (there is another LOOONG holiday from December through mid-January), I've learned to accept them...and use them wisely.

I encourage our wonderful volunteers to enjoy these holiday breaks & turn time on it's head. So, instead of tea-time with Tshepo, have tea with a friend. Instead of a pre-Sunday brunch chat with Thuli, sleep in a bit longer. And then, come back to us, refreshed and ready to go!

I'll take my own advice, too...I promise! In fact, lunch in the backyard would be a wonderfully welcome change of perspective!

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