Bogomil Shopov

Human. Artist. Hacker. I care about free and open-source software(F/LOSS), cybersecurity, ethical design, privacy, and technology. 20+ experience in technology. 40+ in being human. I encourage people to become better humans with heavy metal and technologies. I also promote technologies to be considerate of humans. Let's see how it goes!

Why I donate and volunteer, and why you can do it yourself.

I am sharing a story about donating, volunteering, and supporting the things I believe in to show you that there is something you could do with your skills or financial assets to turn the world in a better direction.

It’s not a secret that I donate more than $3000 a year for projects that align with my values and spend at least 40h a year volunteering. You might ask why I do something like that instead of buying a new computer or lying on the beach. 

Let me share a few stories with you:

The Avast Story

Six months ago, I joined my current company, Avast, which is now GEN. The first thing I did after the onboarding was to look for some opportunities to help someone in need. I found the DofE program and decided to join as a mentor.

If you don’t know what DofE is – in a nutshell, you help young people from the Czech Republic achieve their short-term life goals – like learning how to play an instrument, walking 500 miles for a year, or learning how to code. 

Most of us have big dreams, but we must remember to pursue them because of something more exciting, or we lose interest, or life takes unexpected turns. Sometimes we need a kick to move us on the right path. 

Teaching mentees how to succeed and helping them along the journey could help us live in a better tomorrow.

The good thing about skill-based volunteering is it comes naturally – you don’t need to learn anything new or spend days figuring out what to do. It’s the same as If I ask you near the coffee machine to explain why we need antivirus software. You do it! Many people can use the skills you are ready to share for good and do something stimulating with your guidance.

Imagine if you had a mentor like yourself years ago! 

The world is big, and happiness lurks around the corner.

Skills and time:

I started supporting open-source and free software projects in 2004 when I joined the Mozilla community (the maker of Firefox). 

I contributed with my skills – localization, fixing and reporting bugs, doing small code changes, and talking to people about Privacy and Freedom on the web. After that, I used the same skills for helping projects like Fedora, CreativeCommons, EFF, and more.

What was my motivation? Why did I do that?

  • I learned some new skills that I apply even today: respect for Privacy, respect for other people’s opinions, and working with people from around the world having different cultures.
  • I felt my work was tedious (ah, that extensive excel I need to fill in), or I go into a daily routine without a way out. Contributing helps you break the boredom and return to your work refreshed. Change the context for an hour to fix a bug or typo and come back to see the difference.
  • Be part of another great team – Join a vibrant group of people who believe in the same values as you do – for sure, you will take more benefits than I can describe here. Also, you’ll become friends forever.
  • I learned how to be a leader. Helping people find the best way to apply their best skills is something I mastered while contributing to those projects.

Money:

Sometimes more than skills is needed. The majority of the projects and ideas need money. Donating helps them stay alive, motivated, and focused on their work.

At some point, I realized I could only support a few projects and ideas with my skills because I am changing, and they are changing as well, or simply because I need more time. I asked one of my mentors how I could still support their mission, and the answer was straightforward – help us with money. 

Then I remembered my first days as a FOSS developer, back in the 2000s, when I received financial support for one of my projects (whois XMLRPC gateway), and how I felt. It was awesome!

A final note:

Identify what change you want to see in the world and find a way to support it with your skills, peers, money, goods, or anything they need. They can’t do it by themselves. Change is a group sport.

Even though I bragged a bit initially, the best way to help and donate is to do it silently, focusing on the value you get for yourself and the value you provide to the mentee or the project!

Good luck!


Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash