Experiencing the value of volunteering

Explore Assurity 14 June 2019 Daisha D'Souza

Daisha D’Souza recently volunteered for a week in Nepal with the support of Assurity and the company’s Staff Charitable Trust (ASCT). She talks about her experience and how life at Assurity prepared her…

Here at Assurity, one of our values is “We challenge”. With this in mind, I believe that our future depends on challenging the status quo and helping to support, improve or transform the way in which we live.

I volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, an ethical organisation that unites volunteers with local organisations, providing projects based on sustainable, ecological and ethical policies. I visited the community in Biratnagar in Nepal who were heavily involved in making decisions about the design and ongoing management of houses being built to ensure locals became beneficiaries.

Building a better future

Assurity and Habitat for Humanity both place importance on the value “We care” – “We value compassion, humility, transparency, honestly and sharing generous spirit”. Rather than providing a handout, Habitat provides a hand up to provide low-income, famine-induced families with a home to alleviate a poverty-based housing crisis. The local families help build their own homes and can proudly say that they’ve earned their house through ‘sweat equity’. The programme gives them an opportunity to build a better future.

For parents and elders, living in a decent shelter is a symbol of social dignity. The lack of it has been shown to be a barrier to other critically important things in life such as education, healthcare and social mobility. It allows them to gain opportunities otherwise reserved for families of a ‘better social standing’.

For children, a new home offers a chance to grow and thrive in safe surroundings – where they’re sheltered from bad weather, go to school more regularly and enjoy childhood. With the right planning and funds, volunteers with a collective aim can build an entire classroom or one-third of a house in five days, changing lives by delivering opportunities.

Moving outside the comfort zone

Many developing countries are home to millions of people living in abject poverty and crisis. In Biratnagar, the situation is amplified ten-fold. Leading up to my departure, I spent hours researching the ethical and ecological impact of building homes overseas and whether it was feasible for someone whose daily work didn’t involve any sort of manual labour. My initial thought was that it was impossible – naïve to think you can make a meaningful difference in a week, especially in a new country where you don’t even speak the local language.

Instead, the adventure gave me the opportunity to alter my perspective, experience an entirely new culture, build meaningful relationships, learn new skills – and allowed me to make a small, but worthwhile difference.

Aiming to delight

The trip came with many emotions, positive and negative. The 40-degree heat, severe jet lag, 5am rooster calls and 10 hours of manual labour had me begging to return home in the first three days. As an Assurity employee however, it’s been engrained into me that I must aim to “delight” – “by excelling in all that I do and exceeding expectations every day, in every way”.

As the project progressed, I adjusted to these polarising living conditions and exceeded my expectations. Many people think that volunteering trips abroad will only help those in the host communities. The reality is quite different.

The beauty of volunteering trips is that they take people out of their comfort zone and challenge their perceptions, often changing long-held views and ideas and giving an insight into various trials and tribulations. For me, outside of the acquisition of construction skills, I learnt emotional determination and social maturity. Experiencing these emotions as part of a group was uplifting and comforting.

Learning life lessons

Working as part of a team can help build a plethora of career-boosting skills. I learnt how to fail fast and hard, but to take it on the chin and persevere. I learnt how to be diligent and determined and to put thought, effort and love into all that I do.

Habitat for Humanity reinforced the idea of cross-transferable skills and placing value on people over projects (cue Agile manifesto). They emphasise the humanitarian ethic of service and a professional ethic of competence.

The benefits of volunteering

Some people think that volunteer work doesn't qualify as 'real' work experience. From my experience, Assurity leads by example, by taking the best of what's happening around the world and helping create innovation.

The majority of career-enhancing opportunities come through networking and working relationships. Volunteering exposes beneficial interaction with people who are driven, conscientious and who act as a moral and professional compass. 

Thanks to Assurity Consulting and the Charitable Trust for supporting me in this endeavour – making an opportunity of a lifetime a reality and one that has touched so many lives and impacted mine for the better.