Friday, 26 April 2013

Who Knew Volunteering Could Be So Difficult?!

The definition is simple enough.

Noun: A person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake tasks.
Verb: Freely offering to do something.

Where would the world be with out volunteers?

Just stop and think about your local community – hospitals, animal shelters, Meals on Wheels, churches, nursing homes, hospices, canteen duty at the local school, rehab shuttle services, the local library, every single registered charity, soup kitchens, meals on wheels, community nurses and midwives – the list is endless.

Then the global network of volunteers – World Vision, Plan, HOPE, Doctors without Boarders, Green Peace, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross and hundreds we’ve never heard of.

These organisations wouldn’t exist but for the support and passion of their vast network of 

People volunteer for all sorts of reasons; giving back to their community, or they have a direct involvement with a cause, they might want to add clout to their CV, good work experience, or they have a friend of a friend who needs help, or that they simply want something to do and somewhere to do it.

MrsD is the Chairperson of a nationwide organisation supporting her daughter while in Sydney MrsE hosts an annual fundraising event for her daughters special needs school, and Mr and MrsK host an annual golf day raising funds for their children’s school.

MrsC organised a group of mums to participate in the annual Moonwalk in London because her aunt is suffering with breast cancer. Cousins in Sydney participate in Movember while others shave their heads. We all wear a Red Nose, pin a Daffodil to our clothes and have  A Bandaged Bear in a cupboard.

Mum’s just started volunteering one day a week in the gift shop of the nursing home group where my late grandmother lived. Mum always said she would ‘give back’. Several friends are volunteers, so it gets her out'n'about.  MrsH has been volunteering at her local church for years doing the weekly flowers and spent years involved in her 3 kids schools. 

Gosh, who’s not volunteered at school, or the kids football team, or sewed costumes for the annual ballet concert, worked with kids at Sunday School or on holiday camps – volunteering (and fundraising) comes in all shapes and sizes, for all sorts of reasons.

The biggest, high profile volunteer group in recent times as those at the Olympic Games – where would Sydney and London have been with out them? 

My first full on volunteer role was as VP Events on the parents committee at MissM’s school in Yokohama. Some weeks there were several meetings at school, numerous phone calls and emails - hours of work! The other VP and I would often joke this was a full time job. The friendships made as a result was one of the most wonderful outcomes of the work we did; the support and appreciation from the Head of School and staff was a delightful by-product, and the faces on the kids when we did things that directly affected them was priceless. It’s something I am very proud to have been an intricate part of.

I also volunteered at the YCAC with friends on the Kids Committee and organised a few great events for the kids before we disbanded.

So on reflection I have been a volunteer and really enjoyed it.

With quite a bit of spare time on my hands these days, and a visa stamped in such a way employment is in the too hard basket, the hourly rates of pay in the UK aren’t great and like most mums, what would I do with MissM during the HUGE amount of school holidays getting a job isn’t a viable option.

So, for me, volunteering sounded like a great way to fulfil a few objectives.
  • Give my week structure 
  • Get me ‘out there’ amongst our local community 
  • Expand my social network
  • Get my brain working again

As we don’t have any connections here to anything specific, my desire to volunteer is purely selfish. 

Back in November, I met with the Volunteer Co ordinator of a very large, well known and much loved local charity (who shall remain nameless) to see how I might volunteer. Three hours later, we agreed that the marketing/fundraising department would contact me and I'd commit to volunteering there 9am-3pm Mondays; and the occupational therapist would contact me about arts'n'crafts which I'd do every Wednesday 9am - noon. She was particularly interested in my experience with decoupage and scrap booking.

I skipped out of the building! My heart was soaring. The charity was incredible; the work they did unique and so very special. I really looked forward to being part of their team.

CRB (Police Check) and references needed to be done and then I'd start.

It's April, and I've not heard a word from the marketing department, or the occupational therapist. My CRB was approved (naturally) and the references were brilliant. I've emailed the lady I met with several times chasing her up and her response is usually 'sorry, we're really busy' or the last one 'the marketing department is being restructured and the employees are having to reapply for their jobs' SO WHAT?????

A friend of a friend volunteers A LOT and she introduced me to a few charities and one or two were of interest but one needs 3-6 month training on set days a week and they are not run all the time. The next session doesn't start til September! 

Surely volunteering shouldn't be this difficult.

I met a lady about a month ago thru a friend at school who has been in the fundraising industry for several years, and has recently branched out on her own with a rather visionary business model. We had a lovely lunch and got to know each other in terms of skills, experience, motivations etc (really did feel like a job interview), her plans for this fledgling business, and what I could offer.

I agreed to do start helping her with one local event to see how it goes before taking on more. (At least that's one lesson I've learned and remember to put into practice)

A month later, I’ve made the tough decision to tell her I won’t be doing any more events. 

Sadly, volunteering with her didn’t work and the more I thought about her business model, and told G and a few friends here, they all raised issues about it that I hadn't thought about and when I did, I also thought ???????

There's no office (well, now there is but it's about an hours drive from me) so it didn’t get me out of the house, it kept me tied to the kitchen table and my laptop in more ways that FB and emails do. She left her last job ‘quickly’ and so needs to build all the data bases. 

It’s didn’t get me ‘out there’ amongst the local community cos I’ve been at home in my kitchen on the laptop Googling schools, media (radio, newspapers and online) and creating databases. Once done it was a matter of creating a PR campaign to promote the event and sell tickets. I won't go into detail with what transpired as it sounds like I'm having a right ol' whinge, but suffice to say it got complicated and confusing and emails were flying back'n'forth between us. 

All I wanted to do was to go into an office, be told here's the PR, here's the media database - GO!

The only thing it did do was get my brain working again which I loved! It's a relief to know it still works.

We met earlier this week to brainstorm the next event (this was getting a bit too serious and involved for me) and finalise the current one. I had to be honest with her and let her know that  it wasn't working for me. Rather than going to an office and having a chat and working alongside others, I'm at home alone (again) building data bases and feeling responsible for a (min) 100 person event, and then a 600 person event. All I wanted to do was 'help out in an office situation a few hours a week' and hope she understood. She said she did and that she was really sorry it didn't work out as she appreciated everything I had done and my suggestions.

I’m not feeling very proud of myself right now but I had to be true to myself even if it meant letting someone else down. Maybe if it wasn't attached to volunteering in a fundraising capacity I wouldn't feel so lousy.

Have you ever done that? Let someone down by staying true to your self?

With friendship

No comments:

Post a Comment