What, Why & How volunteers should learn

When people volunteer and connect to a charity, its clients, and/or an issue, they typically become more committed and likely to participate again and are less likely to check off their involvement as “volunteer with PMD” alongside “pick up dry cleaning” and other tasks that they complete and never think of again.

How do volunteers make these connections? PMD incorporates learning opportunities in its project descriptions, info packets, and during every service project.

Although PMD shares key facts, links to charity web sites, and/or current news articles about the relevant topic, the truth is that few people do more than skim written materials in advance. Most often, people-to-people interactions during their volunteer experience make the difference: when a project manager repeatedly articulates that the completion of these specific tasks enables this charity to carry out its mission of helping some needy group, and when charity representatives describe their missions, answer volunteers’ questions, and share their personal stories about how they came to be involved in this work.

Most charities don’t have enough staffing to spend time with each volunteer or group, so I think that video is becoming increasingly relevant when people want to develop a greater understanding beyond their individual volunteer experiences assisting people in need. To fill this need, PMD has used excerpts from MonkeyRay Productions’ Growing Old documentary (now available on DVD!) to encourage people to consider aging and its challenges by watching relevant conversations with elders, professionals, and doctors in Greater Boston and learning about key trends.

If you or your group volunteer with elders, I recommend integrating viewing of this documentary to provide important context to the direct services you provide to individual elders. It is also a great starting point to discuss these complex issues.

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