“It’s going to be like drinking from a firehouse,” Steve, a group leader at Project C.U.R.E., warns us in volunteer orientation.
The Volunteer Experience
Project C.U.R.E. is the largest provider of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries around the world. Because they are a nonprofit, they rely on volunteers to come into their warehouse and sort through the boxes of donated medical supplies. Steve’s analogy was very accurate because the volunteer event began with a lot of overwhelmed volunteers. He walked us through the half of the warehouse that still needed to be sorted before leading us to the volunteer sorting area. Our job was to unbox the donated good and then sort everything into the correct bins.
The challenging part was figuring out which item went into which bin. There were computers to search by item name or barcode at each station, which helped. But if something really stumped you, then groups leaders Steve and Norma were happy to help. They could usually tell you which bin something went into off the top of their head.
What started as an overwhelming experience, quickly began to seem more manageable. Each group at their table fell into a rhythm. Grab a new donated box. Dump it out. Group like items together. Look up where things go. Put them in the correct bin. Ask Steve or Norma about anything you can’t immediately sort. And repeat. Each box went faster than the last as we began to memorize where certain items went. Since some of the volunteers were nurses or nursing students, many of them got a kick out of handling the equipment that they were already familiar with.
It was incredibly relaxing to focus just on sorting and organizing for two hours. We all knew that this equipment would be shipped overseas where it would save a life. Every item we touched at Project C.U.R.E. could go on to mean the difference between life and death for someone.
At the end of our two hours, Steve and Norma called all the volunteers to circle up. We had gotten through three, almost four, pallets of boxes. Then Norma said something that stuck with me: “Commitment is doing your part of the puzzle without ever seeing the whole picture.” It was true that none of us volunteers would ever see the impact that our work would make. But someone, out there, was going to be healthier and happier because of us.
For more volunteer event stories, check out our earlier posts about volunteering at The Gathering Place and at Denver Rescue Mission: The Crossing. To sign up for your next volunteer event, go to Projecthelping.org/volunteer-search/