Some strategies for reaching young volunteers
Recruitment is the opportunity to show people that they can do something they want to do; something that will make them feel that they are learning and acquiring new competences and that will be simultaneously a citizenship action.
In the specific case that we are discussing here and in which we want to captivate young people who have a very specific knowledge on some issues like gender equality, human rights…, it is advisable to publicize volunteering in places where we can find these young people: universities, associations and youth centers.
One of the strategies, and if there is a university in the city, is to contact the presidents of various departments and arrange information sessions about the volunteering initiative you are going to create. These sessions can happen in the classrooms or in the leisure spaces of the university.
In these sessions it is always very positive to use testimonials from volunteers who have already had experience in these areas and it is imperative to present the project in an appealing way.
For example, we can play a “theatre of the oppressed” scene in the university bar simulating a scene of dating violence and if there are students who intervene trying to calm the “actors” we can talk directly to them to join the project.
Similarly, we can contact youth centers and associations and schedule an information session.
In all of them it is important that you give examples of the activities and if you have some pictures or a film it will be very useful. It is also important that you show the youngsters the positive aspects of this kind of volunteering:
- the children and teenagers that are going to benefit from the volunteering through games will worship the volunteers just because they are older;
- they can have some exciting experiences when they are implementing the games in schools;
- they will have the opportunity to participate in a training about the issues of the volunteering;
- they will have a contract and a very close relation with an organizations very similar to that they will have when they will get a job (our experience is that are mainly the students that feel the motivation to join the volunteering).
Of course it is important that in the web page of your organization and other social networks you announce the volunteering because there is always someone more attentive to these kind of communication vehicles.
In one way or another, we have to collect the information of the candidates for volunteers and through a registration form with personal data but also with a question about previous experiences of volunteering and another about the motivations to enroll.
It is important that you preview the possibility that the youngsters return these forms later and so you have to set a date and a place so they can do that.
After you receive the inscriptions you have to create your group of volunteers. This can be a hard situation because not everybody has the profile to do this kind of volunteering.
The first thing to do is interview the candidates. In this interview it is necessary to clarify if the volunteer feels at ease to carry out the tasks that imply to handle and to face groups of 30 adolescents, not always easy to mobilize. If/She he feels prepared to hear statements about dating violence, about xenophobia, etc. with which he does not agree and argue without losing calm and assertiveness.
It is also very important to realize the volunteer’s ability to responsibly assume the activities with which he/she will commit himself or herself. After all, the most important thing we have to realize in this interview is not the technical skills for a task (as it happens in a job interview) but the ability and motivation of the volunteer to fit the role.
The interview must be conducted in order to know the person in front of us and not the professional. This is why it is more complex than a job interview and therefore it should take into account some aspects such as: the way the interviewee is received; the place should be nice; the atmosphere should be friendly, and the ability of the interviewer to detect interests and talents of the interviewee that might be of added value to the organization.
What to do when someone does not have the right profile?
The first thing to do is to clearly explore with this person the most difficult aspects of the tasks; in this concrete case, dealing with difficult children and young people in playground and classroom contexts. This often leaves people less prepared and motivated. But since this type of volunteering is very specific, it is normal at the beginning of the interview to explain that not all people have the profile to deal with complex situations such as those found in the sessions that the volunteers will energize. And that the interview will also serve for the interviewee and the interviewer to reach a consensus on this.
Hosting new volunteers
The hosting of new volunteers has to be a moment that focuses on the clarification of objectives and expectations and not so much on the formal issues as the filling of forms. It has to be a time when the volunteer feels not as someone who comes to compensate for the lack of staff in the organization but as someone who makes a unique and special contribution to the organization.
This welcome can be made individually and we can present the team of the organization with whom the volunteer will have contact (even if it is only visual contact), present all the facilities and make him/her feel comfortable and welcome.
But you can also organize a meeting with all the new volunteers. In this meeting we should use the methodologies that will be the basis of all voluntary work. For example, the presentation of each volunteer can be done through a group game and the whole meeting should have moments of activities / group games. You can use this meeting to give a name to our volunteering initiative by organizing, for example, a brainstorm.
The purpose of this meeting is for the volunteers to get to know each other since they will work in teams, to become familiar with the organization that welcomes them; to know in detail all aspects of the functioning of volunteering.
This meeting can also be very important for we to understand the training needs of the volunteers, especially on the topics they will address in the sessions.
In order to discover what content we are going to explore in training, we must answer three questions:
- What information do they need to successfully carry out their work?
- What skills do they need to successfully carry out their work?
- What attitudes do they need to successfully carry out their work?
In this type of volunteering we strongly advise training based on non-formal learning methods because the partnership of this project is an unconditional advocate of this methodology, but also because the voluntary actions we propose in this manual are based exclusively on non-formal education methodologies.
Attached you can find a pedagogical proposal that should be used at the beginning of the volunteering. But during the year (because the volunteer actions take place during a school year) you must provide more training moments. All the meetings you organize can be training opportunities: whenever you challenge the volunteers to test the group games before they use them at the schools, you are training their skills to face the teenagers and children and also their knowledge about the issues addressed in the games; when they share their experience and make a reflection in the group about the volunteering work, they are participating in a learning moment.
As Luís Aranguren points out: “We do not start from a figure of educator who knows everything and places his knowledge on volunteers, since in the educational process itself, trainers and trainees live the same educational experience. We are therefore faced with a process of permanent feature, in which each one is discovering, elaborating, reinventing and acquiring new knowledge, skills, experiences and dialogues that cross the path.” (Aranguren, 2010, p. 26)
This is the only way this experience of volunteering reaches the dimension we want to give it, which is to help volunteers become active citizens who are more concerned with catalyzing new realities that are more fair and supportive than correcting a system that is wrong.
In short, the training that we propose is more focused on being able to think and to transform than to be able to make and to execute.
NEXT: Managing the field work
Aranguren, Luís (2010), Os Itinerários Educativos do Voluntariado. Caderno Voluntariado 01, FEA, Évora.