I began volunteering with Beauty Night Society at the head of this year.
I had wanted to volunteer with an organization for some time, but knew that I lacked the physical time for it. School, working full time, and demanding family responsibilities made it impossible, but I knew that season of my life would pass, as all things in life do. Everything comes to an end, whether forced or naturally.
Eventually, I finished my course. Family demands became much more bearable, and I had space in my schedule to really consider this desire to volunteer and act on it.
I am a realtor and freelance writer living here in Vancouver. I am not from here, originally, and the downtown east-side has fascinated and saddened me the entire time I've lived here. I knew that this was the population that I wanted to serve. That desire was solidified for me, as an obligation, because someone in my family, whom I treasure greatly, was diagnosed several years ago with a mental illness, of one of the most severe types. My life has changed in its entirety, as a result. This was a large part of the strenuous family responsibilities that I referred to.
Most of the inhabitants of the downtown east-side are afflicted with one type of mental illness or another; in many cases, several mental illnesses at a time. It is impossible to hold a job and maintain a "normal" life, when you are hearing things and seeing things that no one else is. Can you imagine how lonely and scary that is for a person like you or me? This is why many people turn to drug and alcohol abuse; it provides a relief from the torture of hallucinations.
I found Beauty Night online, on Twitter, and knew that I could see myself serving here, hopefully, really effectively. For nearly a year, I have served on the frontlines, polishing nails, rubbing feet and being a good listener and conversationalist. I try to encourage the people that I serve. I want them to know that I value them and more importantly, that they are intrinsically valuable.
I also blog for our website and try to connect us with groups and people, who can in some way, help us as an organization to grow and sustain Caroline's vision. Finally, I work at fundraisers we are invited to, in order to help us achieve our annual operating budget.
I want to grow with this organization and help it grow. I enjoy serving this way, in my free time, and value, so much, meeting other volunteers who are like minded. One of the things that I have valued most about being involved in this organization, is something that I've learned along the way. I didn't know it coming in. Beauty Night humanizes the outcasts of our society, most of them in the downtown east-side, in the minds of the people who come to volunteer.
In this way, there is a tremendous benefit being done for the person who comes to serve, as well as the one who is being served, and of course, that has the lasting impact of changing cultural attitudes toward mental illness, addiction, homelessness and disabilities. That all works toward changing the experience of the person being served, over the long term, past the Beauty Night experience. It has a long term culture changing affect, by showing people who may otherwise be really judgmental toward these vulnerable people, that they have no reason to be. They have barriers that we can't even begin to fathom.
We are growing compassion in hearts and that is where change begins- in the heart; the change that we eventually see in attitudes extended toward the people that we are tempted to judge, reject and forget.