Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Say "Yes!"; Creating A Volunteer Resume

Somewhere out in the Equine Community an adventure awaits!

It's been my experience that the more I put myself out there, the more I get to do, thus was the idea behind this blog originally; to document the horses and the fun I've had being around them. Think about the difference between standing on the perimeter with your arms folded across your chest. You may witness something but if you walk into it with your arms out & hands open, you'll get to touch it, feel it and experience it in a way your eyes alone may never fully comprehend.

I can't even say when I began to crave the "feeling" & it may surprise some to learn that I was once a quiet, shy, "Perimeter" kinda girl. I didn't know how to engage myself into the situation but took great joy in watching others having fun. At some point I figured out that I had to keep putting myself in the situation I wanted in order to start living my dreams.

At the age of seven I would get on my bike and discover my world. Perhaps the most important *find* was the local riding stable. For $2.50 I could buy myself an hour of freedom on a horse. I still don't understand what the harm would have been in doing this every day but my parents allowed me to do so once per week, typically on Saturday. Eventually I was asked to take other renters out with me and show them the trails so I unofficially became a trail guide very young...of course on a volunteer basis. That opened the door to allow me to come to the barn more often and volunteer to do other things like grooming, turning out, watering, etc. Of course they could have paid someone else to do that but I didn't care, I got to be around horses and that's all that mattered to me. It was quite a process getting to that position took many days, perhaps even weeks of just coming and hanging out, standing at the fence line and looking pathetic...until they gave me something to do. Eventually I mustered up the courage to actually ask what I could to help and at some point they gave me ride time in exchange. It was a long process but I'd say that relationship lasted four years until we moved to a less horse-friendly neighborhood. I kept riding as often as I could but the lack of easy access kept me from pursuing my passion until much later in my life.

When I got back into horses in my 40's, I started off in the middle of something I probably had no business getting into, rescue. I hadn't planned it that way, but thankfully I aligned myself with a great team and got the support I needed to get my horse and myself through the process. In my adult life, I've pretty much followed my childhood habit of asking what I can do to help and eventually found myself stepping up for horses in need.

With S.A.F.E. I started out by sponsoring Kokomo and that led to a party where I forced my friends to donate money and before I knew it, I was answering "YES!" too all kinds of calls for help and discovered that usually led to meeting some really incredible folks...and more horses!

As I made more and more contacts, I kept getting more and more invites to participate in various activities as a volunteer. I welcome these invites and these days I actually have to turn some down because there simply are not enough hours in a day to do all the things I would like to.

I gave up TV pretty much altogether a few years ago. I watch it from time to time (thank you On-Demand) but mostly I spend a lot of time sending emails, cultivating the ever-growing network and actually getting out there and doing the work, riding the horses and making a difference...and encouraging others to do so as well.

When S.A.F.E. asked me to be the Volunteer Coordinator two years ago, I will admit that I was both honored and frustrated. I am a fairly decent fund raiser. I like to call it FUNd raising as I've discovered it's always easier to extract people's money when they're having too much fun to notice their lighter wallet...or care!. But it hit me that I had to be prepared to do what needed to be done and for this organization, someone to wrangle volunteers was needed. I said "yes!" (note, that's with a small "y"...perhaps not as enthusiastic as a "YES!", but still a "yes!").

Turns out my duties would be to answer volunteer email inquiries and to schedule the daily chore volunteers at Jaime's farm where most of the horses are kept. I wasn't asked to, but I also self appointed myself to increase participation by volunteers at events like the Horse Show and other community relation opportunities. I kept telling myself that I'd do it until they found someone better. While I can think of better organized people and perhaps even people who might have more time, they seem to have out-smarted me by keeping busy with other commitments and here I remain, two years later, still SAFE's Volunteer Coordinator but I can still type that with a smile for many reasons.

I often get asked how I can stomach the rescue work when there are so many horses to help and so many ways to abuse and neglect a horse. I have two philosophies that get me through...

The first, and probably most important in terms of the rescue/volunteer community, is that for every individual I am exposed to who causes harm to a horse, I get to be in the unique position to meet (at least) a hundred other people who want to help in some way. That keeps my heart full and my commitment motivated. Yes, there are sick & ignorant people out there but I like to think they are a minority. The majority of the people I come into contact with personally are amazing people who want to make a positive difference and a lasting change.

The second and obviously the most significant is the subject of our efforts: The Horses!

These horses have no real reason to trust humans and yet beginning with the smallest act of kindness, perhaps a handful of hay, they do. I believe they sense & gauge your inner value early on. I also believe we become more than hay & treat dispensers to them. I think they understand that there's a chance at something better. The relationship starts when they learn to trust and it builds until they learn to give...or perhaps we should look at it like they give-back.

Even when times get tough in rescue, when organizations are struggling, mistakes are made, personalities clash, the horses are still there....innocents... and I'm going to quote myself again "It's times like this that both make me question and confirm WHY I do this work!" We get through the tough stuff to do the good work. The work that we sometimes do for no other reason than our hearts tell us we must.

So what do you get out of volunteering? For me, I get the satisfaction of knowing that I've helped but along the way some pretty amazing things have happened because I stopped being the girl on the rail, waiting to be called upon to follow my dreams.

Like I mentioned, this volunteering thing has been pretty much a life-long endeavor for me but it doesn't take long to build what I refer to as my Volunteer Resume. For me it's not always about the horses (although certain members of my family might be of a different opinion!), I actually spend a fair amount of time supporting other community service endeavors but regardless of the subject matter, I will say that having that experience has helped in ways I might not have expected many years ago.

Let's look at my son Corey for a moment: in MY household there is pretty much a non-stop running stream of volunteer opportunities and so my kids were roped into lots of them. Sometimes it started with a grumpy face but usually ended in a happy one. When it came time for Corey to go out and look for a job, with seemingly no experience, we built a full page resume based on his volunteer experience. While it's not a real job, I believe it did show a great deal of worth by showing there were things he would do for free, just because it was a good thing to do. I'm thinking hard right now, but I don't believe there is a job he interviewed for that he didn't get. I have to believe that makes an impression & a difference.

I think about all the volunteers who work with S.A.F.E. and how following their passion could, perhaps, lead to fantastic "paying" opportunities. Whether they're mucking stalls, organizing fund raising events or making public speaking appearances; they're all showing a work ethic and commitment. That translates well in the professional world & I would encourage anyone who performs volunteer work on a consistent basis to include that in your personal resume's. It's certainly worthwhile and you never know were it can lead you.

In my own little volunteer world, I just completed my second event with the Equestrian Institute last weekend as a Ring Steward for the Champagne Classic Dressage show. Again, I get as much out of it as I give. As part of my job, I'm watching the warm-up arena and get to hear all the trainers on the rail giving last minute tips to their riders. I'd like to think that some of that is sinking in for my own use. I certainly do take their tips to heart and see if I can apply them in my own riding.

I've also accepted a volunteer position for the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky this fall. It was actually quite a long process & I had to go through several interviews but I think my resume actually helped me land a dream position with them. I have been assigned to the Marketing/Sponsorship team and will get to participate in fun activities to promote the various sponsors of the event. I don't know that I could ask for a better role...and I get to go to the WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES....that alone is amazing!!

So....seriously your volunteer resume...IT WORKS!!!!!!!!!!

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