Why Volunteer

Originally Published October 4, 2015


Graphic illustration for coasters. Created for 5 Gyres, a community that fights ocean plastic pollution through education, science and activism.

Just wanted to sneak this post in before the Social Media Summit starts this week, put on by the the Social Media Examiner. After that it'll be all I can do to talk about anything but various networks and the potential for reaching people... I think. The new quarter began for me this past week as well at the Evergreen State College, and the program* is so perfect I can hardly think about anything else. Chances are I will be posting about the advocacy potential of social media... but who knows?

Volunteer work is often encouraged for new designers looking to grow their portfolios, to gain experience and to make connections. Though I may have started that way in 2002 prior to graduating with my Associates of Applied Art, I found that I liked it too much to stop. Volunteering offers anyone in any field the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

There is hands-on volunteering that keeps arts and community events going, and those experiences are most always rewarding for all involved. But when it comes to translating expertise in any field, the mutual benefit of contribution hits another level--though I can only speak for graphic design and marketing. Another area that I'd like to hear stories about include the application of Computer Science in the non-profit sector.

For me I found that volunteer work provides an in-road to the world I want to live in, the one that goes around because people care about each other and the entire planet, and they want to help in any way they can. In that world, this sort of work wouldn't be something that is left for the few hours after the day's work is complete, and the home-front is secured... it would be the focus of the day, and the family. If this sounds kind of preachy, I apologize... it's meant to sound like a dream that I like to live in when awake.


Awareness campaign art for 5 Gyres. This campaign is about drinking straws. The US uses over 300 million plastic straws Each Day. They do not get recycled, and they are one of the top polluters on beaches. Learn more at 5gyres.org.

The value of volunteering design work has not only provided a sense of doing something positive, it provides a sense of peace because I can do SOMETHING and it might make a difference. 

Additional benefits include:
• Learning about subjects that I care about, in-depth and experientially.
• Meeting people with shared values and goals.
• The good feeling lasts.
• It's exciting.
• I can be what I wanted to be when I grew up... and I can do it right now.

Graphics and website maintenance for the Thurston Food System Council. 

Sometimes the opportunity to help is too important to pass up. Even if the time involved totals no more than 3 hours per week on average, it's time spent on the future. A lot can be accomplished in 3 hours. The feeling I come away with every time I give time, is this buzz of doing something with tangible meaning, and it's enjoyable.

*The program at Evergreen is titled Resource Rebels | Environmental Movements Building Hope... and I'm really excited about it! 

The only way to build hope is through the Earth.
— Vandana Shiva