Volunteers in the time of COVID-19

During this uncertain time, we are all navigating the many new challenges and determining how to charge a path forward. For those of us whose jobs are centered on working with people, like me, have been left wondering how we might be able to accomplish our goals, or maybe create new ones. Suddenly, the shifting climate made me feel like as if I was learning how to do my job all over again. All of the processes, reports, conversations with volunteers, etc. which had become so commonplace, quickly disappeared leaving me to wonder how can I be successful at my job while our volunteer program is suspended? How can I engage the community to support families while their child is receiving treatment?

Through the support of my colleagues at GRAVA (Greater Richmond Association of Volunteer Administrations) and professionals at many other chapters of RMHC, I found comfort in understanding that I was not alone in traversing this new path. Very quickly, it became clear that I would have to reimagine how I could engage and connect our volunteers, who I was used to seeing on a weekly basis. I didn’t necessarily figure it out all at once, and it is still not perfect, but my main objective is and has been, to maintain the connection with our volunteers while they are not able to be in our program spaces in the House and hospital. The message is not only “we miss you” but also, showing our volunteers that I truly care about them as people, beyond their volunteer role at our organization.

Another major takeaway for me over the past few months, is the need to widen our perception and understanding of what it means to “volunteer.” While we are all used to the common conception of volunteering being a hands on experience where you go to an organization and complete a task in their space, there are so many other ways to give your time, that right now are high priorities. Can volunteering look like being an advocate for an organization on social media? Can volunteering look like organizing a group of friends to host a wish list drive through an Amazon Wish List? Can volunteering look like purchasing catered meals to be delivered to the Ronald McDonald House? Widening the perception of volunteering may help everyone jump on board with the newest and most pressing needs of an organization in the COVID world. Through conversations with our volunteers, I have been amazed by how willing our volunteers are to adapt, be flexible, and understand our evolving needs. I’ve been touched by the dedication of our volunteers, which makes me hopeful that they can come alongside us to make an impact during a time when they can’t be physically present.

Just my two cents! Looking forward to continue to engage virtually and one day, back in person, to help each person find the best way to support our organization and families while their child is receiving care.

With gratitude,

Diana Villarreal