How to Get Involved in Eight Simple Steps
Do you ever feel discouraged because your sighted counterparts are doubting your capabilities at the service site? The Community Service Division of the National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness does not prevent you from doing community service. You can be an active and valuable part of your community, and can perform community service just like anyone else. The following eight tips are sure to help you cope with doubt from others and yourself when doing community service, whether this is your first time serving or you have been serving for years.
Helpful Tips for Dealing with Doubt at the Service Site:
1. Be confident:
It is okay to not know how to do everything when first starting to volunteer. The most important thing about going to a service site for the first time is not having all the answers, but having the confidence in yourself and your capabilities to look for those answers so that you can participate equally in the community. As you work through any challenges and anything that may discourage you, keep your head held high, believe in yourself, and show those around you that you are sure of yourself and your blindness.
2. Staying oriented:
Some people prefer to go to the service site beforehand and orient themselves to the layout of the place before service actually begins. Others prefer to orient themselves during the activity, learning the setup of the site as they go. Others use a mixture of these two methods. Whichever you choose will come to you in time as you learn from your service experiences about what works best for you and what does not. You will find that orientation is very important when serving because mobility allows you to move freely throughout the area so that you can offer help as needed or oversee the project.
3. Raise your voice; be heard
Many blind people have said that, when they go to a service site, sighted peers feel compelled to push them off to the side, but blind people are just as capable to perform community service as their sighted counterparts. If you are finding that people at the service site are treating you this way, do not be afraid to tell them about your capabilities, as well as your eagerness to serve. Remember, self-advocacy is just as important in community service as it is in other parts of our lives as blind people.
4. Show 'em what you got:
Sometimes telling them just isn't teaching them. If this is true for you, try to find small tasks that you can do, and do them. You can take this a step further if you want by creating your own ideas or projects that need to be done and presenting them to the volunteer staff. As people see your abilities in action, this may help them to realize your potential, and they may be more apt to shoulder the tasks and responsibilities equally with you.
5. It's okay to reach out to others if you don't know how to do something:
If you want to do a particular kind of service, but you do not know how to do it, the National Federation of the Blind Community Service Division has several outlets where you can reach out to other service enthusiasts who will likely be able to answer your questions. There is no such thing as a bad question, so feel free to ask anything at any point.
6. Take opportunities to educate:
The people working alongside you might not be exposed to blindness and the alternative techniques that allow blind people to be independent members of their community. These people may have a lot of questions for you. If you see an opportunity to educate about blindness, take it. (Remember, you are an expert on blindness.) Being open about your blindness often helps others to feel more comfortable around you, and will give them an understanding of how you do things. This may help your service experience run more smoothly, too.
7. Be patient with others and be patient with yourself:
Service can be very frustrating in a society where blind people are normally viewed as the ones who are supposed to be served, rather than the ones who provide service. Changing these perceptions requires giving explanations, demonstrating physical action, and continued and patient repetition to show others that you are capable of serving others. Not every service experience is going to be perfect. In fact, as you are still getting used to it, you may have to cope with a lot of snags as you try your hand at different techniques. But you are not alone. Be patient, and do your best.
8. Keep your eyes on the prize:
Explaining your blindness to others may not always be effective or simple, but don't lose sight of the reason why you are there. Ultimately, the passion for serving others and making the world a better place should fuel you to keep trying. As individuals, we have the capacity to help others, and blindness is not what holds us back from doing this. Do not get discouraged, and keep striving toward doing the service that you want to do so that you can better your community by helping others.