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What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Volunteering (Part 2 of 2)

Published: Apr 27, 2021 @ 9:08 AM

Last week to celebrate National Volunteer Week we started a conversation about the unspoken realities of volunteerism. We are continuing to feel all the feelings!  

Unintentional harm is still harm. 

It is difficult to acknowledge that hurt can still happen with the best of intentions. Lots of reasons for this...structures, ignorance, systems not designed for the human. The act of volunteering can result in harm for people. Whether that is the process of recruitment requiring someone to interact with police or whether that is a board meeting that is not a safe place, we all need to own our part in assessing the ways in which we magnify or create harm and oppression.   

Lots of volunteer roles allay guilt but do not address root causes. 

There has been a shift in the past decades where organizations have altered their volunteer roles into a more skilled and flexible place. Volunteerism in most forms still offers a very “thin relationship” (Dean Spade). One can't help but wonder if we dedicated more time and energy to thinking about and addressing the complex and unique problems in our own communities instead of getting the hit of dopamine for something mundane for an industrial charity what we could shift for each other? For our communities?  

Are you uncomfortable again?

Maybe this is still feeling like a lot, maybe you are about to write a second email to tell us exactly why we are way off base, maybe you are feeling defensive of yourself or your organizations. That is still ok. Centre the voices of people in your organization who are underrepresented, do what they recommend, circle back to check to see what still needs to be done. There is still not a checklist for solutions, a certification for completion and perfection is still not possible so just start doing something. 

Still keep on learning.

Inspiration and information for this piece was taken from the below people and spaces: