June 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Why I volunteer: the christian duty to help your fellow man and woman

David Ashman, a volunteer or Our Lady and St George’s SSVP Conference in Penilee, Glasgow, explains what drives him to help others.

I first became actively involved with SSVP after my mother passed away. I was 47 years old and had been looking after her in the last few years of her life as she fought dementia.

Following a short time in care she lost her battle against the illness.

Life had become rather small and tough for me in those last years but it also made me realise I had a more caring side to me than I had realised.

Suddenly I had more time on my hands and I remember internally asking God, ‘OK, so what do you want me to do now?’


Helping others

One night shortly after an event in our old parish hall, I noticed two old ladies supporting each other as they left. “There must be something I can do for them and others like them,’’ I thought.

I did not know much about the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP) at this point and, in my ignorance, I thought the organisation was just about financial poverty.

However, when I saw an appeal in the parish bulletin for SSVP volunteers, it started me on a course of events which changed my life.



Not long after joining my local conference, I suggested that we arrange outings for people in the parish who were housebound or lonely, had lost their lifelong partners or who just did not get out much.

That was in 2011 and for the past eight years, every six to eight weeks a group of volunteer drivers, both conference members and non-conference members, collect people from their houses and take them to various venues such as museums, garden centres, visitor attractions etc.

It gives them a chance to see each other and catch up and helps to alleviate their ‘spiritual’ or ‘social’ poverty.

Some only see each other on these outings and I know how much they look forward to them.


Reaching out

Recognising that conferences sometimes have to reach out to the parish to get programmes moving is a good thing and means that more people have the opportunity to live out their Christian vocation in a way in which they perhaps didn’t anticipate.

We have also had young helpers who come along to assist and that gives them an involvement which perhaps keeps them actively involved in their parish.

Possibly as a result of this we have a new 18-year-old member who has recently joined our conference.

The above is just one example of the work we do but it is an important one as it involves face-to-face contact and commitment and it is a visual demonstration to the parish community of the active work of SSVP.



So why do I volunteer? My first and most important reason is altruistic. If you are able and you can, I believe it is incumbent on all Christians to actively look after their fellow man and woman and to get out there and do something.

Is sitting in a church for an hour on a Sunday and not putting what you hear into practice during the rest of the week what God really wants of you?



Second, the gratitude you feel from those you help and the contact you have with those who have really suffered in life, often through no fault of their own, is reward in itself.

They educate us, through their experience, in a world that perhaps we have not appreciated or have lost sight of in our more comfortable lives. This helps you to develop the heart of charity that I believe God wants you to have.



The third reason is that it gives you peace of heart and mind, knowing that what you are doing is decent, kind and ultimately right.

The only way I can express what I feel on this last point is to paraphrase something attributed to the Scottish athlete Eric Liddell.

He had a talent and he did not claim any ego trip about how good he was, but instead talked about feeling God’s pleasure when he used the talent he had been given. His talent was competitive running—what is yours?



Can you drive? Can you count? Do you have patience? Are you good at ‘just’ talking to and listening to people? Do you have a pleasant manner? Do you have good organisational skills?

You may not have thought so, but these are all talents in my book and your local SSVP conference would like you to share them.

More importantly, there is a world of people out there less fortunate than you who would also like you to share them.

If you would like to find out more about the Society of St Vincent de Paul ( SSVP), visit www.ssvpscotland.com or contact the national office admin@ssvpscotland.com

Do you know someone who could contribute to our ‘Why I Volunteer’ series? Email info@sconews.co.uk if you or someone you know would like to contribute.

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