In overcoming obstacles to volunteer commitments, asking for help is key

Jan 26, 2013

It's one thing to say you'll go on a big volunteer trip. But doing it? That seems much harder. Just ask Jimi and Cristi Cook. 

The Cooks are the co-founders and directors of Be the Change Volunteers, an organization that coordinates trips to impoverished countries around the world to build schools. It's the kind of volunteer effort the Cooks refer to as "the big one" – the kind that takes people out of their comfort zones. 

The logistical challenges – time, money, family situation – are enough to make some people put off large-scale volunteerism until later. But later might not be any better. 

“Your’e always going to have to figure out something,” Jimi Cook said. “If it’s not your kids now, it’s your mom when she’s older."

The key to overcoming these challenges is simple: Ask for help. 

“Get over your ego,” Jimi Cook said. “You can trust other people to take care of things at home, and in a lot of ways, it’s really, really neat.”

One woman who went on a Be the Change trip has two small children at home. While she was on the trip, the children enjoyed spending more time with their dad, their teachers and their neighbors. 

A man who often volunteers with the Cooks raised $1,700 in five months by asking friends and family to save their spare change. They saved their change in plastic cups from Shakespeare's Pizza, and then gave it to him.

Other volunteers send letters asking for support. Cristi Cook said even if people give small donations, they are still helping out by sending someone else. 

"I think the network and the finances are there," Jimi Cook said. "It’s just really kind of on us to get over our nerves, or our qualms about just asking."

To read tips from people who have traveled with the Cooks, read their article, "I will definitely volunteer ... someday."

For tips from people who have traveled with the Cooks, read their article, "I will definitely volunteer ... someday." Listen to the full 10-minute interview with the Cooks below:

This article was produced in partnership with Columbia Faith & Values. For more like this, go to You can also hear our weekly updates around 8:30 on Saturday mornings on KBIA.