A Listening Ear

I knew that I wanted to squeeze in some more volunteer work this term, in order to feel as prepared as possible for my application to my graduate program in the fall. However, I was almost out of the house 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. already, and wasn’t sure if I would be able to make time to add another commitment on. I heard from a couple of my psychology professors that crisis counseling was a great way to break into psychology volunteering, but to be honest, I was a little intimidated by thinking of going to a center, taking calls, and essentially getting empathy exhaustion. Then, I’d have to go home at night and probably go to sleep right after, which I knew wouldn’t help me feel cheery. 

With a bit of research, I found I could actually apply for a volunteer position with a text line and take conversations on my laptop. I’ve only been doing it for a little over a month, but to be honest, I wish I had started much sooner. I really appreciate the ability to choose my schedule, and change it week to week. There’s also the ability to debrief with other counselors when hard conversations happen, and you receive constant support from your supervisor. 

It is tough though, especially when you can tell someone doesn’t feel better after talking with you, and there’s not much more you can do for them. My hardest conversations are with younger people that text in, and may have a harder time understanding that we can’t say or do certain things for them when they’re clearly in need. But I’m glad that I’m giving some of my time each week to volunteering and offering my trained and compassionate ears to people that really, really need it. 

I currently put in about four or five hours each week, shifting back and forth between splitting that up into two days and doing it all on Saturday. However, over spring break, I’ll probably be putting in a lot more time. 

It’s great practice for my future as a therapist to learn to leave it behind when I close my laptop and to learn that you can’t fix everything for someone, only be there for them to provide support, resources, and validation of what they’re going through. But that’s still pretty special, in my opinion. It can weigh on me sometimes, and it’s not for everyone, but I think I’ll probably be volunteering for a long time.

Taking the Initiative

Green Bracelets. Green T-shirts. Cancer banner.

I never thought I would be coordinating a cancer walk with three of my best friends and colleagues. I truly believe it when people say college opens many doors. It all started with an email two months ago from my Student Leaders of Service advisor. I have helped many times with on-campus, volunteer events, but I knew this one was different because it was outside my comfort zone. But right then and there, I snatched the opportunity to become one of the outreach coordinators. Two months later, I am sitting at an information table for the cancer walk as I post this blog.

The CureSearch Walk for Children’s Cancer will be taking place at Sellwood Riverfront Park on August 10, 2013. Our goal is not only raise the awareness for pediatric cancer, but to raise the number in attendance and support. My Community development manager, Mallory Zarate, has been advising and giving us the resources needed to reach the target markets of PSU students and the Portland community.

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Volunteer Opportunities on First Fridays

I was introduced to the student group Student Leaders for Service (SLS) through an Alternative Spring Break trip last year. SLS offers three Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips and any PSU student can apply for to be a part of one. I chose to serve the homeless population as well as other non-profit organizations in San Francisco. This remarkable experience has broadened my perspective and motivated me to stay connected to my community.

This year I am one of 25 members of SLS. The student-run group’s main objective is to be the liaison between students and community partners/organizations. I am currently interning at a local organization called SMART – Start Making a Reader Today.  As a program intern, I am learning how to navigate the non-profits’ database, assist with volunteer applications, and compile research for grant writing. In the future, I will be more acquainted and equipped to work, “behind the scenes” with the logistics and administration of non-profits.

WIth my internship, SLS weekly meetings, and leadership training, I am understanding the importance of service-learning and social justice. I have this relentless urge to not only take action, but to spread the word and connect others as well.

To participate, you do not have to be a member or have any prior volunteering experience. SLS has started “First Fridays”: volunteer opportunities in community organizations on the first Friday of every month. Nov. 7th was our first successful day at the non-profit SCRAP. http://psuvanguard.com/news/students-pitch-in-for-afternoon-of-service/

Visit the SLS office in Smith Memorial Student Union Room 124 or connect to our sites to learn more:

http://www.pdx.edu/cae/student-leaders-for-service

http://www.facebook.com/PSU.SLS

Alternative Spring Break 2012 video clip: http://vimeo.com/41207825