“What are the most important values to hold in being a local volunteer?” This was a question on a Kahoot quiz put forth to 72 volunteers who also reside in the public rental neighbourhoods we engage.
Last Saturday, these volunteers were attending a Neighbourhood Volunteers Appreciation Event which was also an opportunity for volunteers from different neighbourhoods to collectively reflect on their experiences. Apart from appreciating their efforts, we facilitated activities that encouraged everyone to clarify if they really understood the purpose of our presence in their neighbourhood.
The answers to the above question that participants could choose from were: A. Sacrifice and Commitment, B. Relationships and Care, C. Responsibility and Fairness and D. Hardworking and Disciplined. We were heartened that most chose B as the answer. While all the other answers would not be exactly wrong, our purpose in their neighbourhoods is to build community so that people care for one another.
I had the privilege of addressing these volunteers and I reiterated the principles that guide our community building efforts. Firstly, community is a place where we give and receive support, and everyone has a gift to offer for building community. This would be a gift of the head, hands, or heart. A gift of the head would be something one knows or enjoys learning about, and that from the hands would be what one can do, fix, make, or create. A gift of the heart is what people care passionately about and this is the gift that ignites action.
Next, we can only build community if we nurture positive relationships. If there is no personal connection between people, there will be no shared aspiration or concern and no work gets done. Finally, care results from the commitment people have toward one another. A caring community comes about from its people and not from a service or programme.
To care must also mean to address the challenges within a community and especially the conflicts among and between people. At the appreciation event, we gently surfaced some of these challenges through skits that brought a laugh but going forward, conflict resolution will be hard work and no laughing matter.
The event was also a time for volunteers to deepen their connection with the organisation and what it stands for. Hence, we clarified that services have a role in alleviating life’s challenges and Beyond Social Services is not against services. However, Beyond believes that for one to live a fulfilling life, one has to act on what one cares deeply about. The community building work we facilitate invites people to care for their neighbours and their neighbourhoods holistically.
For peace and community,
Assets and strengths, not deficits and needs, are the true building blocks of healthy communities. Every individual, association and institution has assets that can contribute to community well-being and justice.