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Connecting volunteers to families in need

Volunteers are the heart and soul of many organisations and giving your time to others is a proud Australian activity. 

For volunteer programs to succeed, there are behind the scenes teams and agencies that manage people and processes across recruitment, coordination, training and support.

The You-Me-We (YMW) volunteer program has been connecting families and parents with support and services since October 2018.

As we mark International Volunteer Managers Day, we take a look at the program journey with Child and Family Coordinator, Abigail Nherera.

 

About the program

YMW was started to improve the engagement rate with families in need by recruiting and training others who had been part of child and family programs including Resilient Families.

Introducing the program involved research on best practice recruitment, guidelines, processes and procedures. The first YMW program recruited and trained 12 volunteers (10 women and 2 men) in March 2019 and 41 families have since been referred to the program.

“We worked together to identify families who were a good fit as volunteers, and determined that the best use of volunteers was during an intervention phase when families are showing signs of disengagement with the program and other support services. The aim is to match volunteers and their culture, age and circumstances with a newly referred family,” said Abigail. 

“Hearing first-hand how the program works from people they can relate to helps families make informed decisions about getting involved, and the internal recruitment system provided a way for our clients on successful journeys to act as guides and role models for families new to the programs.”

 

Caring for volunteers

Abigail says working closely with the volunteers to prepare them for the visits was important.

“Simple things can make a big difference - our volunteers developed their own profiles to reduce the need to retell their own story when they meet a new staff member,” said Abigail.

“As part of the program, our coordinators plan home visits where case workers are accompanied by a volunteer. The volunteers are given background on the family and support before and after the visit. Everyone involved - including our client - has the chance to provide feedback so we can build a program that makes a difference.”  

 

What it means for our practitioners 

Resilient Families practitioner Kassandra is thrilled by the new program. 

“My client was hesitant about getting involved in the program. But Anna* (YMW Volunteer) did an amazing job of telling her story, relating to the concerns of the client, and describing some of the unexpected benefits of being part of YMW. I could see the client felt understood in a powerful way - it was invaluable in getting my client participating in the program.” said Kassandra.

 

A spotlight on brave volunteers

Volunteer Petra is proud to be supporting families and children by sharing her experiences and says she is supported at each step.

“It’s great news that we could help a little further, just by our conversation. It was great to have a rundown of the family from Jordan (case worker) beforehand. She gave me feedback as to why she felt my story would be able to help this family and that helped me organise my story to emphasise those common points we share,” she said.

“I found the advice I got at the initial training was very useful: acknowledge the families for allowing us to share our story with them, as it can be intrusive for more people to just come into their space. And having the direct support to de-brief after the visit was very useful, on an emotional level.”

Congratulations to all involved in the success of the You Me We program on International Volunteer Managers Day.

*Names have been changed to protect volunteers and families.