While volunteering for an aid and development organisation is extremely rewarding, it can also be very challenging work and there are periods when coming into the office are incredibly difficult.
For this reason, most us come to our Oaktree commitments with strong motivations and value systems behind doing what we do. After reading an article by Lily Frencham on the Power of your personal story and stumbling across a rather thought-provoking animation, I was inspired to explore the importance of the values behind volunteering.
I was first inspired to sign up with the Oaktree Foundation through a personal experience with a friend of mine. Currently, I come into the office a twice a week and really enjoy working at Oaktree. I meet fantastic people, the work I do is fun and engaging and I feel good about what we achieve. But what are the values that drive us to such a job?
For some, the most important values behind our time commitment are a belief in equality and justice. Some of us value education, others the act of giving itself. These values might originate from our upbringing, commitments, certain ethical convictions or from profound personal experiences.
In some cases, belief in the cause may be less important than belief in the means used to address it. Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis argues that there is very little that actually affects human levels of happiness, however one thing that does is the feeling of being connected to something bigger. For many of us, feeling part of the anti-poverty movement, for whatever reason we joined it, is one of the biggest reinforcers.
Personally, the philosophy that keeps me going is one I discovered at university and is best articulated by Peter Singer as common sense morality. It’s based on the idea that we all place an intrinsic value on another person’s life. This thought process is extended to suggest that if you would save a child drowning in pond and wreck your $200 pair of shoes to do it, there is little excuse to not donate $200 to an overseas aid organisation that can feed a child for several months. Though I would expect few Oaktree volunteers wear $200 shoes, I think many of us still identify with the sentiment. This philosophy has been re-imagined into a fantastic animation by the One-Life campaign.
The values behind volunteering are about more than just why we joined Oaktree. As we continue to write our stories we must ask ourselves why we continue to contribute our time towards an organisation and cause we strongly believe in.
Whether it’s a philosophy, an experience or an addiction to office culture, I feel it’s important to appreciate our personal values and work in places that feed them.