Our Force for Good series meets you with the people at VMware passionate about volunteering. They share the lessons learned in the process and the special moments from their volunteering journey that they cherish. This is Kelly Gryutsner, Colleague Support Senior Specialist.
Tell us about the causes you are supporting.
The main organization I’m involved with is Ideas Factory. It’s a small NGO that focuses (amongst other things) on bringing “citizens” closer to village life by organizing volunteering events there – mainly hands-on activities like painting, cleaning parks, helping elderly people in their households, etc. But the main part of this is talking to the “villagers,” hearing their stories and understanding what they really need so that the next activity can be planned for an even more significant impact.
How did you start and why?
What really got me into volunteering was the group we had in the Colleague Experience and Technology team. The enthusiasm of that group gave me the courage to go looking for new things we could try, and I got lucky by finding an Ideas Factory event on the TimeHeroes platform.
What is volunteering for you? What motivates you to do this?
People like us that work in a corporation (especially in Bulgaria) live in a bubble and don’t even realize it, for the most part. Life outside of this privileged bubble is painfully different, and even if you think you know, you don’t really know until you see it. We’re used to quieting our conscience by donating here and there, which is fine, but you can never be sure if what you’re donating really reaches whomever you were targeting. You don’t get to see if you’ve helped anyone.
And that’s what drives me. The knowledge that I’m doing something helpful, meaningful that brightened up someone’s day. It isn’t easy to find that while sitting in front of a screen.
How do you find time for volunteering?
I make it a priority, honestly. Given, I don’t have the second job of being a parent so that allows more mobility, but I’d like to think that I’d drag my children around to teach them about helping others, as well 😊
What did you learn about yourself while helping the causes?
That I may be getting older, and things around me may be changing, but I still have the same values as I did 10-15 years ago, and I need to hold onto them.
Tell us about the people you met on this journey.
For the most part, it’s always good people. The last event in particular, where the pictures are from, was full of foreigners – Spaniards, an Austrian, and even a Peruvian. It was great to see how nationality meant nothing there; it was all about getting the work done and helping people. As for the “villagers”, there are so many colorful personalities, but recently I met an elderly lady whose mother had taken in 11 children that had lost their parents after WWII. She told the story with tears in her eyes. There was another one that had to have a kidney removed but was climbing up and down the day after, much to the doctors’ dismay. But the most prominent figure I remember is the mayor of Kliment village near Karlovo, who is in his 40s and has been mayor for 20 years. He’s putting so much time and effort into preserving life and culture in the village; it’s unbelievable. He’s already made two movies about the history and traditions in Kliment (with village “actors”) that have made it into local cinemas, and he’s constantly putting through improvement projects. Big cities wish they had a guy like him in charge.
What would you say to someone who has never been a volunteer, would like to become one, but doesn’t know where to start from.
Have the courage to do it on your own. It’s a bit difficult to throw yourself into an activity without knowing anyone, but help is always welcomed and you’ve volunteered to do a job, so that’s all that’s expected of you. There are platforms like TimeHeroes where you can look up different activities that may be interesting to you and from there, you may find an organization that you really like and would like to continue working with…. You never know where that first step will take you. Also, I heard there are people that actually enjoy socializing, so if you’re one of them, you probably won’t mind meeting new people.