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November 28, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Consistently attempting to attempt to make the world a better place.

I am a failure at volunteering.  A total, absolute failure.  Not because I want to be, but because that is just the way the cookie is crumbling.  Let me count the ways.

1.  In 2000 I got out of the Marines and then I attempted to volunteer for the Peace Corps.  At that time, nothing seemed better than building huts in some foreign land, helping the locals manage gardens, hell…there were countless things I wanted to do.  So I began the application process and went through a few weeks of paperwork before finding out that I was ineligible to join the Peace Corps due to my occupational specialty in the US Marine Corps.  My job in the Marines has close ties to lots of dark spooky acronyms.  Since the Peace Corps has frequently been accused of being a front for spies and the like, I was immediately disqualified.  I didn’t even get a balloon.


I decided that I could become a volunteer with the VSO, a “Peace Corps” like entity out of Canada.  For those of you who don’t know much about Canada, just watch some South Park and that will catch you right up.  As it turns out, Canada had no problem shipping me all over the globe into harms way, and I was all about signing up.  I sent in my paperwork and got accepted.  Alas, that same week my grandmother passed away and I decided to go to the funeral instead of to my interview in Canada.  My big plan was to reschedule the interview.

2.  In the meantime, I decided to join the Red Cross as a disaster relief volunteer.  This entailed showing up at things like house fires, floods, etc.  I loved the feeling of being there when people needed someone to be there.  A few months into my Red Cross foray, 9/11 happened and I got a front row seat to the flaming, smoking Pentagon.  I went on autopilot and helped.  I decided now, more than ever, I needed to do something outside of the country. 

 I checked up on that paperwork for the VSO to find out the date of my new interview.  It was scheduled for late October.  However, in early October 2001 the USA started to bomb the everlivin’ soul out of Afghanistan and most of the places I had planned to go through the VSO were now in limbo until the outcome of the newly developing war.  Everything went on hold.

<Intermission 1:  >

<Cue back surgery #3!  Cue child #2!  Cue depression!  Cue the attack on depression, and subsequent born-again motivation!>

3.  2008 – I decided to become a Reading Helper at my son’s Montessori preschool.  All the moms who didn’t work got first dibs on reading times, but I had to donate my lunch break.  This was fine, until I realized that when they say you “need one hour” you actually “need two hours.”  Didn’t have this option, couldn’t do it.  I was judged by other moms…moms with more time to give, moms with trust funds and better baking skills.  I guess I’m not the PTA, school volunteering type.  I suspected that was the case, but this experience really solidified it. 

scary PTA moms

4.  2009 – I decided that I would start a CSA farm.  I love this.  I plan to do it forever.  I do find immense satisfaction in providing people with tasty, local, and organic (but not certified organic, USDA!) food.  The best compliment I got is that a woman was able to get her son and husband to eat a carrot thanks to my food.  It’s that good.  It’s real, and it didn’t have to get shipped from the BFE.  I only wish I could expand this program to meet the demand.  Working on it. 

<Intermission 2:  >

<Cue major upheaval on the home front!>

5.  Now I’m in the dumps.  I found something to get me out of the dumps!  I want to donate organs.  Why wait to die?  You can donate crap RIGHT NOW.  Well, not crap, per se, no one wants that.  I mean, you can sign up to donate kidneys and livers RIGHT NOW.  You really can!  Brilliant minds have started planning this stuff out so well that living donor organ donations have led to major organ donation chains which end up benefiting not one, but several people.  How it works is this:  Bob wants to donate an organ to Greg but he is a bad match.  So Sally’s volunteer  donor, Megan, is a perfect match for Greg but not Sally.  So Bob gets tested and it turns out he is a perfect match for Sally.  So the organs start getting moved around like this:  Bob -> Sally -> Megan -> Greg.  Everyone gets an organ or the chance to help, rather than everyone sitting around dying on the table.  I decided that this was freaking awesome, and immediately signed up on the registry to hand over livers, kidneys, whatever anyone needs.  I have had my share of surgeries and that part doesn’t scare me one bit. 

So, I apply and get a fucking rejection letter. 

Sorry, your history of back surgery means that you may be at a higher risk of infections or complications during a voluntary organ donation, therefore you are disqualified.  But you can send a check to us at the following address…


I need to do something big and important or I may shrivel up and die, meaning that those organs will go to waste anyway.  Suggestions are welcome.  The bigger the better.  I have lots of ideas brewing, but I want to hear what you all think about this.



Leave a Comment
  1. Flying Tiger / Dec 3 2009 12:55 am

    I think you have already done something big and important in serving in The Marine Corps. That is not to say that you can’t do more, but there are a great many people in the USA that have never served their country, knowing the risks involved.

    I am the same way as you though, my heart asks me to do more than my schedule allows. As a cop and combat vet, I’ve seen a lot of screwed up shit, and that makes me want to do what I can for certain people.

    Unfortunately, I just don’t always have the time. Just try to remember, a great buffet consists of a lot of different dishes. You don’t have to cook the whole meal, just bring a side dish or two.

  2. Marie / Dec 2 2009 5:55 am

    Maybe you should try the UK – apparently they aren’t at all particular about their organ donors:

  3. Pammy Girl / Dec 1 2009 8:14 am

    Go to You can do ONLINE volunteering… just talking to kids who need to talk to someone. Type in your zip code and scores of opportunities will come up.

  4. megan / Nov 30 2009 8:14 am

    I’m impressed that you’ve done as much as you have, or even tried to do as much as you have. It’s a shame that a lot of people, despite their good thoughts, never act on their good intentions and wait for someone else to do the right thing.

    I think starting small is the way to do it. Help out at a local soup kitchen, donate old books or toys to the Salvation Army… You could even start something yourself, motivating others to help out.

    Remember, volunteering is like any other job – each part of it isn’t meant for each person. The people who read to children aren’t always cut out for rebuilding homes, and those people aren’t always cut out for donating blood. You’ll find some part of the greater good that works best for you. In the meanwhile, take some pride in your desire to be part of it.

  5. Neil / Nov 29 2009 3:45 pm

    A novel with a message could motivate a wave of volunteerism.

  6. Ian / Nov 29 2009 8:05 am

    Eh, you’ve got mad skilz with your background. Be Rambette against Big Pharmaceutical. I’ll be your alibi and chronicle your adventures as you go in, guns a-blazin’, and shoot all the bad guys and get ’em blow’d up real good. 😀

  7. fawnahareo / Nov 29 2009 12:25 am

    I LOVE that you do a CSA! We used to participate in one here, but organic farming can be a really tough gig in the Yukon and the folks just couldn’t make a go of it, sadly.

    Are there any causes you feel really strongly about? For example, did you know that epilepsy affects more people than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease *combined* and yet receives just a fraction of the research funding?

    You don’t have to be passionate about finding a cure for epilepsy, but maybe there’s a cause that moves you. Does your neighbourhood need a new playground? Does your local animal shelter have to euthanize more animals than it takes adopts out? Does a senior’s residence need people to help organize entertainment?

    You’ll find something, I’m sure of it. 🙂

    • maleesha / Nov 29 2009 8:01 am

      Thanks! I have three main causes:
      – Helping troubled teen girls
      – Disaster relief efforts
      – Local food

      There are lots of BIG causes I have too…like taking down Big Pharmaceutical, for example…but I think I should bite off smaller pieces. You listed some great ideas, thank you.

That's what she said!

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