Because They Care: Celebrating the Women Who Volunteer, Great and Small

Volunteer Ann reads to girls as part of the Foster Grandparent Program.

March is Women’s History Month, and here at VolunteerMatch we want to acknowledge all the great women who have dedicated time and energy to volunteering—around the world and in their own communities. Thank you so much for your work and inspiration!

I want to highlight two women in particular who have inspired me to become a volunteer. The first is my mother, a hardworking woman who has been tirelessly involved in bake-sales and church functions as long as I can remember, and who raised my sister and me to help out, too. The second is Melinda French Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and number four on Forbes Magazine’s list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” She is someone I have always admired and aspired to be like.

Both these women are my role models, showing in their own ways how far a woman can go and how much difference she can make. But what motivates these two very different women to volunteer? What does the work of an internationally-renowned women’s rights advocate and co-founder of one of the world’s richest nonprofits have in common with my mother’s quiet efforts in her community? Most importantly, what can I, as a woman and a volunteer, learn from them?

Filling a Need

My mom has always used my sister and me as her excuse for why she started volunteering in the first place. However, now that we are both grown up and moved away, she can no longer say we are her only reason. She is still very involved in her community, running over to the school on weeknights to set up for fundraising dinners, or taking time from her weekends to manage church finances. Her reason now is that she continues to see a need for what she’s doing, which didn’t go away after we left. Although they are someone else’s children now, she explains, she volunteers because she cares.

Melinda Gates sums up the work she does in much the same way. “Our desire to bring every good thing to our children is a force for good throughout the world,”she explained recently in one of her TED talks. This desire has motivated her to help other women achieve this for their own children.

Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and her own work, Mrs. Gates has committed herself to improving people’s health and wellbeing, and to improving education for young people. Most recently, she has joined the fight for women’s reproductive rights, even standing up against the Catholic church in defense of improving access to contraception in some of the world’s poorest countries.

Propelling Societies Forward, One Woman at a Time

While both women have made different impacts in volunteering, it seems they are inspired in similar ways. They both care for family and community, which helps them empathize with other women and motivates them to make a difference.

According to Mrs. Gates, such care and desire to provide what’s best for our children “propels societies forward.” Understanding this has allowed her to connect with mothers and women around the world. At the same time, my mother’s care for her children led her to first recognize and then continue “filling a need” in the community, even after her kids grew up.

So although caring is not a feeling exclusive to women, we certainly learn a lot about how to care from our mothers. I want to make a difference because I have been inspired by the world-changing work of Melinda Gates. However, I began to get involved because of my mother’s continued involvement in her community. Thanks to both of these caring women, I volunteer.

Image provided courtesy of Foster Grandparent Program/VolunteerMatch.