Have you ever been part of a group photo that was captioned as "family" but still didn't feel truly accepted? Same. I've done my fair share of extra-curricular activities and I thought that finding a family in a group of people who weren't my actual family was one for the books. But, boy was I wrong!
See, I was really unproductive because of the pandemic. I missed school and my friends, so I just lazed at home all day since I couldn't leave home. One day, my friends asked me to join a youth volunteer organization. I thought to myself, "Meh. Why not?" So, I joined, not so enthusiastic. I didn't plan on doing much. But then, I was allowed to write for the Pioneers Youth (PY) blog. Writing, an old hobby, a skill I always wanted to develop. I wrote an article, and every other writer here was so helpful and encouraging. I completed my article with the help of some precious constructive criticism and had it posted. It was a success.
I developed a sudden interest to be a part of Pioneers Youth. Being a perfectionist, I just couldn't half-ass something. I had to go all in. Here's the weird thing about PY, everyone is always so pleasant and understanding. I wondered how everyone here is like this because I mean, let's be honest, there's always that one person we don't like. But not here, no. Then I realized that that's what this organization did. They helped people, not only those in need but also their members. They helped me, and others too. PY helped me grow and be a better version of myself.
People think that volunteering is just a full-time job that you don't get paid to do, but that's just simply not the case. It's hard to let go of volunteering when you have so much fun helping people with the friends you've made, friendships you just know will last a lifetime. Sure, you don't get paid, but it's all worth it when you see the smile on the face of someone you've helped. Volunteering is not a full-time job, not in PY at least. As said before, they are understanding. I joined PY a year before my O/Ls. One of the first things I was told was that if I wanted to take a break, I could always do so. Volunteering is not about helping out 24/7. Volunteering is about helping out whenever you can. And every tiny thing you do makes a change.
I made friends, and soon, I considered them family. No air quotes! Some of them were people who texted me, approached me, and started a friendship. Some were ones who barely knew me but always cheered me on and encouraged me. Some, I met on Discord, on the music lounge that we practically lived in. You see, they aren't just friends; they are people I've stayed up with till 4 am in the morning listening to my comfort music that I'm usually insecure about. They're people who've stayed up for me, proving time and time again that they'll always be there for me whenever I need them.
One of my favourite things about PY is the diversity of its members. When you go to school, most of your friends there are from areas close to where you live, the same age as you are and usually have the same social background, but in PY, not only are there volunteers from Colombo, Galle, and Kandy but also from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Australia. You meet loads of different people. That way, you learn so much from various political and social issues to the different perspectives of people from different races, religions, ethnicities, ages and social backgrounds.
This isn't just an organization that helps those in need, but a family. I once asked one of my friends from India what it was like to be an international volunteer, and she told me that it was no different. She said, "Distance doesn't make them less family. I joined PY, and for the first time, I felt like I belonged because they accepted me for everything I was", and this one line, is what PY is for me. It's a place where you can not only improve your skills in teamwork, communication, writing, photography, videography, editing, and so much more but is also a place where you can be yourself and work on personal growth and development.
This is Pioneers Youth. We strive to foster, empower and embrace. I hope my journey inspires you to do more in this world. There are so many people out there who need YOUR help. It's hard to do it all on your own. But remember, even the smallest of things can make an enormous impact.