Recently, I started volunteering to help study bats in New York State. They’re fascinating. They’re the only mammals that fly. They use their ears to hunt at night. Because of their tricky habitat and nocturnal nature, there is a whole lot we don’t know about their behavior. In fact, they are one of the world’s least-studied mammals. (Caveat: we’re talking living mammals and not counting the giant rat recently found in the crater of Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea.) My interest in bats has only increased as they’ve been hit with an unprecedented and alarmingly devastating disease: white nose syndrome.
The more I learn about voluntouring and the people who do it, the more I seem to stumble on stories of lives diverted in dramatically new directions, and always for the better. Take, for example, the story of Tammy Babcock, a security supervisor at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. Babcock was just like us, our friends, or our neighbors—a professional young woman leading a quiet, comfortable life. And like many of the stories I’ve read lately, a single event turned all that around.
Helping people can take many forms. When we think of volunteering, we often think of performing physical labor, educating children, or providing medical attention. Of course, these are all essential services, but there are many other creative avenues out there for bringing aid to the people who need it. For example, Allan Lissner helps people by telling their stories with photographs.