Day 18: I am Too Tired

The heavy feeling started right after the free shop opened; I couldn’t pinpoint what was bothering me.

I felt tired. Annoyed. Uncomfortable.

I was volunteering in the Kid's Corner with Dasha--my favorite coworker. Kid's Corner + Dasha = a recipe for a perfect day. (See Day 17 for Dasha's Story.)

People walked into the shop with a quiet desperation. They were Ukrainian refugees who had to leave their country due to the war. They needed clothes. They needed shoes. they needed underwear. They needed a backpack to carry their things.

I had been volunteering here in Krakow, Poland for several weeks with this organization that supports refugees who are fleeing war in the Ukraine. There was nothing about today that was different than previous days.

Oh. Is that what’s wrong?

There were so many people who needed help. So many people who came to Krakow with nothing and had to build a life here without money or resources or family close by. There were so many suddenly single mothers fending for themselves and their children.

Maybe my volunteering every day wasn’t enough. Maybe me spending my time helping and helping and helping wasn’t enough help.

There are too many aggressors in this world who start wars or wage violent attacks or run gangs against innocent people.

There are so many people suffering from an oppressor. So many people needing help.

About the same number of people came into the shop today as came yesterday. About 20% of them would be here for the first time as they were newly in-country.

Yesterday one family of four found 100 things to help them start a life here. We volunteers were so proud to be a part of this service. So proud that this family could get their needs met, with dignity and that our help made this possible.

Why am I so tired? Am I overwhelmed by the magnitude of need, Covid tired or suffering from compassion fatigue?

There were many volunteers helping in this organization and just as many in the two other programs in this same abandoned mall. The mall wasn’t good enough to sell goods, but it is good enough to house a shelter for refugees, a food service for refugees and our free store for refugees.

Our beneficiaries don’t only come from the shelter, they come from all parts of the city.

There are volunteers here from around the world, from Poland and even from the Ukraine who are here supporting people who need help. I don’t feel like I am the one-and-only person who can help this situation; I'm not here because I'm co-dependent and think I'm the only one to fix it.

I am here to take a stand for humanity AND take a stand against war. I am here to do something actionable to help.

I want to make things different, even if a smidgeon different is all I can muster.

Sure, I could be walking on a beach or funning it up in France or Turkey or... anywhere I want to go. Why have I decided to spend my summer working?

Because I want to help.

The name of the organization I volunteer for is A Drop in the Ocean. It’s an agency out of Norway that is organized, caring and aligned with my values of supporting people through dignity.

But today I started questioning if being a “drop” was enough. I needed to be the whole ocean. Or maybe an atmosphere. The needs are too great, and growing every day.

What can one woman do?

This isn’t disaster relief, it is humanitarian aid. Disaster relief is finite, humanitarian aid goes on and on.

How do I replenish myself so I don’t suffer from compassion fatigue?

When I first arrived, I loved this work so much that I thought I would spend every summer volunteering in some way.

But I’m feeling low on energy right now, which could be partly due to lingering Covid symptoms.

I’ve been volunteering for 8 hours a day and then writing for 3 – 4 hours after that. In the morning when I wake, I write and/or prep the website for two more hours.

Writing is my passion. I love documenting what I see while traveling. Words feed me.

But I wake up tired in the morning. And I am still tired after a nap. And I am still tired on my days off when I wake from my second nap.

30% of my time in Poland is finished/over/gone. There is so much I want to see and do here.

I’m tired.

A few days ago one of the coordinators asked me how I was doing. I told him I was Covid-tired. He said that they didn’t want to “break” me and I needed to take some time for myself to heal.

Maybe I will change my schedule and only work on days the refugees are in the shop. Or maybe I will change my schedule and only work half days.

I’m too tired to decide right now.

I need to say “NO” to something.





Thanks for reading.



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