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Aligning personal goals with the needs of others

Copyrights: Alec Rotunda

Aligning personal goals with the needs of others

Alec Rotunda discusses his experiences as a volunteer with Right to Dream.

If there is one thing I've learned about volunteering in sport and development from my experiences as a Watson Fellow, it's this: volunteerism must be about meeting the needs of the people you agree to serve.

After graduating from Davidson College in May 2016, I began a year of purposeful, independent exploration outside of the United States as part of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship program. My project focuses on discovering how football-based (soccer-based) communities combine sport and education as vehicles for personal growth and character development in youth.

Following a six week stint in Cape Town, South Africa volunteering with Ubuntu Football Academy, I arrived to rural Ghana in early September for a three-and-a-half month stay with Right to Dream – an internationally renowned elite football academy that exists to discover and nurture role models for Africa.

Right to Dream's permeating principles stem from its programmatic approach to cultivating character. Student-athletes and staff regularly engage in a comprehensive character development program, which supplements core theories found in Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Steve Peters’ The Chimp Paradox. The emphasis this term is “give back."

I have learned that, within the context of give back through volunteerism, some needs should be understood before beginning. But as constructive volunteering progresses, this understanding is likely to change.

Acknowledging and appropriately adapting to such changes is paramount and – if applying the right mindset – mutually beneficial. For example, I arrived at Right to Dream understanding that my service would be as a math teacher, while contributing to and learning from the organization's unique character and sport development models.

Before solidifying my roles within character and sport, the organization's leadership expressed a need for more media hands, asking my help. I uncomfortably agreed, compromising my original plan for the greater need of Right to Dream.

By utilizing the growth mindset (Right to Dream’s tenor for personal development) this proved to be a positive experience. The leap of faith forced me to "sink or swim" and learn new skills, while allowing me access to fascinating aspects of the organization that I may not have otherwise been exposed to.

Meeting the media need tapped into the true spirit and value of volunteerism – aligning personal goals with the needs of others. I will keep this principle in mind as my ventures in impact continue into the future.

[This article was written by Alec Rotunda, author of the Kicking All Over the World blog]


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Monday, December 5, 2016 - 15:00

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