The impact people have on their community through volunteering has always mattered, but the last few years have highlighted to us all, just how important volunteering is for our community – as well as for ourselves.
An Oxford Study found that people who were able to volunteer during the pandemic felt more connected and resilient during the worst of COVID.
Doing Things Differently
For many groups, this meant working with volunteers in ways that were very different to how they might have normally done business. At the Clunes Men’s Shed for example, to accommodate social distancing, the men increased (rather than decreased) their opening hours so members could gather safely. The Oxford Study speculates that the bonds formed during these trying times have made some groups stronger, and as you look at the growing membership of the Men’s Shed it’s hard to disagree.
Open House Meals
Another Clunes Neighbourhood House team of volunteers had to adapt during the pandemic as well. The team responsible for making meals for the weekly Open House Meals program shifted from face-to-face dinners to delivery – ironically extending our connection to community members in the process. But behind the scenes they made some changes as well. To ensure the sustainability of the program the team split into two groups who take turns, week on week off, to prepare and deliver meals. This model ensures that volunteering doesn’t become too big of a commitment, responsibility is shared and that everyone has a chance to make a contribution or gain skills.
This reciprocity is at the heart of volunteering. Too often we mark the impact of volunteering in terms of outcomes – like for Clunes Neighbourhood House, the contribution of volunteers means we can treble our outcomes, compared to what we are funded for. A great fiscal statistic and good for the community, but it’s not the real magic of volunteering.
The magic lies in the relationship that is formed to ensure that each volunteer, and the organisation find mutual benefit. For many, if this is formed well, it marks a relationship that can extend for years.
While the pandemic may have changed how we volunteer, it’s great to see (at a recent ‘Thank you’ BBQ for Clunes Neighbourhood House volunteers) that the value of those relationships matters to one and all.
Author: Lana de Kort, Manager