I have stood in the middle of a remote country road with a flashlight to guide overnight runners in the Hood to Coast relay race.
I have been the Sin Bin NSO (penalty box non-skating official) for the local roller derby team.
I have wrapped presents for the local food bank and sold raffle tickets for the curling club.
I sift through donations at a local thrift store that using proceeds to help members in my community.
I am a volunteer and I love doing it.
When I first started volunteering, I thought it was a way for me to benefit others with my expertise or abilities. I thought I was helping them. That’s not true. I volunteer for a completely different reason. A selfish reason.
Last October, I started volunteers for the admin and clerical unit of Arrowhead Clubhouse. Arrowhead Clubhouse is a place where people living with mental illness on the Sunshine Coast can come to learn skills, get support and build relationships in a safe, stigma-free environment.
The Clubhouse is a community of 225 people working together towards a common goal. The Clubhouse is divided into four units that offer an opportunity for members to use their skills or learn different ones. The units are Kitchen, Clerical, Peer Support and Garden/Maintenance. The member are responsible for the running of the clubhouse, from shopping and making the daily lunch to recycling to creating yoga programs.
As a volunteer in the clerical unit, I was there to assist the members in getting their stories or promotions out to the public. I recruited for my social media history and knowledge of press releases.
I thought I was there for them.
It turns out that while I was brought in to help them with communication, they taught me how to communicate.
This stigma-free clubhouse is very much like a family. Every day, this family gathers for a few hours to pull together their resources and make a location for members to thrive. They embrace the differences in each member and set a place at the table. They are open and loving with one another.
And they hold NOTHING BACK. If they are having a rough day, they let you know. If they are on cloud nine due to getting a new job or finding a place to live, you know about it. They are open about what they are going through and they expect the same from you. That “fine” or “busy” response given to “how are you” questions will not go far here.
They share and they expect the same. It is a place of raw emotions and vulnerability. But that is what fosters the love and sense of family.
There are days I leave after my shift with a broken heart and other days my heart has grown eight sizes.
I thought I was there to help them, but they have taught me so much more about the person I want to be. A compassionate, open, honest and vulnerable person.
I volunteer to become a better person.
To learn more about Arrowhead Clubhouse, visit arrowclub.org