Organizing Volunteers: A Herculean Feat

After being on two, week-long corporate impact project sites, I feel like I am finally getting down just how much work goes into planning a volunteer day. Usually, my organization handles the buying of paints, supplies, furniture, etc., with monetary help from the companies that will be participating. We also do quite a bit of the collection work; we pick up supplies from the store, grab things from our storage unit just outside of the city, and order items online – for pick-up or for delivery – sometimes weeks in advance, sometimes just a few days. Sometimes things will get there in time, sometimes things will not, so we are always planning ahead for unforeseen events.

At the work site, our team (which can be anywhere from one person to three people, or even more) will organize the paint and supplies and either distribute it ourselves, or we’ll have help from the project manager that works with the company or in the community. There’s prior planning for the weather; if it rains we do such and such work inside, if it’s sunny we work outside, etc. It definitely is on a case by case basis. We also always have to concern ourselves with safety, so there are risk assessment papers sent out beforehand, and there are safety talks before any work commences. Since most people are just industry professionals, instead of contract laborers, there might be a gap in knowledge of certain activities or tools. We make it very easy to complete the tasks with no previous knowledge and everyone can come away from a day’s work safe, happy, and fulfilled.

Coming into this internship I only had some of the logistical skills it takes to run these kinds of operations, and barely any technical skills of painting safety, gardening and power tools, etc. But, since the people that I work with come from either a background or a passion and hobby for painting, gardening, etc.,  there is very little learning curve presented. I think the organization of volunteer work is a thankless job most of the time, but it has become so rewarding to go into a site and to see the “before and afters”. The look on a teacher’s or community member’s face when they first see the renovated site is completely worth it at the end of the day. More to come.