Celebrate National Volunteer Week 2016

National Volunteer Week 2016
Posted by Barbara Winthrop, OTR, MA, CVE, CHT, FAOTA on 04/10/2016

Doors open and opportunities reveal themselves where we may least expect them. With National Volunteer Week upon us, it's worth pausing to consider how enlisting in volunteer activities not only provides us options to give back to our profession and our communities, but actually creates fulfillment and impacts life's direction. Through connections and shared experiences with others, volunteering opens doors that we never dreamed would become part of our journey. We enjoy the camaraderie of fellow volunteers and gain a sense of belonging. We not only learn how we can impact people in a positive way, we also acquire knowledge about ourselves, enriching our own identity. I would have to say that what led me to my fulfilling career as an OT and CHT began when I volunteered in my community hospital as a candy striper, while in middle school. It felt like such a privilege when I listened to a patient's story (everybody has one) and interacted with people from so many cultures and walks of life. Sometimes, even if I wasn't having such a great day, when I went to the hospital to partake in my candy striper assignments (delivering a card, flowers or even just stopping by a patient's room to say "hello" and chat), the minute I began interacting with the patients, I found myself feeling better than ever, seeing how they perked up. My experience as a candy striper was so positive that when I was in high school, I began volunteering as a summer camp counselor with inner-city children, and progressed to being a Big Sister. I'm thankful for those early experiences because when I discovered occupational therapy, it was clear that it was the right profession for me. Shortly thereafter, I found my calling as a hand therapist. Some of my most rewarding moments have not just been with the countless patients, doctors and medical teams I've worked with through the years, but the many opportunities I've had to offer my time and skills, leveraging my interests (not to mention all I've learned from my fellow volunteers) to help my professional organizations and join medical mission teams. I want to give a shout-out to all of the ASHT members who volunteer tirelessly and give countless hours to our society. Thank you so very much! Each of you assumes a role that works in tandem within your divisions, committees and our society as a whole, moving ASHT forward and making us stronger. There's no better way to make an impact than from "inside" rather than "outside" looking in. It's been said, "Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in." My sincere gratitude to all of you who have made the choice to "lean in" and step forward by volunteering with ASHT! I believe that this extraordinary fellowship of hand therapists linked across the nation (and beyond) is meaningful, fostering goodwill and purpose for the benefit of our profession, the patients we treat and those therapists yet to come! Learn more about National Volunteer Week