At the latter part of 2017, I told a friend that I was planning to volunteer at an animal shelter as my way of “reintegration to society” (parang ex-convict lang ang peg). I won’t go into details but I spent years isolating myself from people even from very close friends. It also didn’t help that I work from home. I was basically a high-functioning hikikomori (high-functioning because I was earning). My friend concurred but told me that maybe I should consider other volunteer options; if I really wanted to get used to being around people again maybe it should be an activity involving…well, people.
I spent 2017 trying to improve my mental health but they were mostly solitary acts — I got into running, yoga, and went on solo day trips. I started meeting people but it was limited to a few close friends. I thought it was high time to put myself out in the world again for sanity maintenance. And so, I browsed the IVolunteer page and came across The Storytelling Project (TSP).
I chose it partly because I am a reader and have a background in librarianship but mostly because I think TSP’s approach is sustainable. They do storytelling with a community for at least 21 days or 21 weeks because the love for reading is hard to instill overnight. TSP hopes to make a nation of readers. It is an advocacy I can get behind with.
I signed up for one storytelling before 2017 ended and somehow became really active this 2018. I was surprised with how responsive most kids are. We rarely use props when storytelling and mostly just depend on our voices. I mean most of the time we just stand in front and read but somehow that’s already entertaining for them. I have been doing storytelling for about a year now but I always get overwhelmed when kids respond with so much eagerness.
One thing I find quite baffling is that for some reason a lot of our volunteers are the quiet or introvert type as I am. Why volunteer at a group where you would have to do funny voices in front of as many as 30 kids sometimes? It seems counterintuitive but yet here we are. It’s always inspiring to see co-volunteers transform from a reserved adult to one who does animated voices and dances while mimicking animals all for the love of kids.
Being a volunteer storyteller has also led me to meet people in the development community. It’s nice to listen to passionate individuals talk about— their hopes for the country, the steps they are already taking to help in nation building, and further steps they plan to take for their advocacy. To me, it doesn’t sound wishful talking or empty talk because their actions precede their words. I find that merely listening or being surrounded with passionate people ignites my passion. I easily get intimidated by other people but I find myself easily falling into conversation even with people I have just met in the volunteer community.
Many things happened in 2018 — I passed the board exam for librarians and *blushes* got a boyfriend whom I adooooore. But, the most transformative was being part of The Storytelling Project. I did many things this year which were out of my comfort zone. I still don’t think that I’m the leader type but I realized that if I am the last resort, if really no one else is available, then maybe I can (though always with some reluctance) rise up to the challenge and lead. As I always say “mahiyain talaga ko, kumakapal lang mukha ko kapag tawag ng pangangailangan”.