Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘volunteer work

The trouble with ‘volunteers’…

Can you find alternative terms to “volunteer”? Is a collaborator more agreeable? Employee engagement? Employee impact? A new fresh sucker? Participation of the unemployed?…
First, let’s hear what Toby has to say, and I’ll fill in with my comments.
Toby of  posted his Point of View on Nov.15, 2012 (with slight editing):

“Imagine a cause you feel passionate about.

It could be a charity you support, a community project that you give some of your time to, or even an issue that raises your hackles and encourages you to sign a petition or donate some money.

(I wonder: researching for and writing up a dissertation isn’t it a volunteer work? You are doing it for free, aren’t you?)

Chances are, you feel motivated to do something about it.

You certainly are, if you’re giving up your time to get involved. And you take action because you get something in return.

Selfless acts are rewarding.

More than the simple feel-good factor, they offer many opportunities for you to gain: influencing change you want to see in society, learning new skills, meeting people or gaining relevant experience. They’re not one-way streets; they are exchanges of value.

It’s the same with employee volunteering schemes.

Would you expect one to succeed without this exchange?

At Uscreates, we have worked with hundreds of local people to help achieve positive social impact through ‘volunteer-led’ initiatives.

We learned that you will never make it happen if you just expect people to turn up, knock on a few doors or hand out some leaflets, and go home.

Instead, you have to invest in the volunteers,  and take a broad-minded view of your investment.

It means going beyond thinking just about providing resources.

It’s taking them seriously and showing respect, so that they’ll reciprocate in kind.

It’s listening and understanding in order to help them articulate their needs.

It’s recognising their skills and power, and removing the barriers to their ability to exercise it.

And it’s investing time to build relationships based on trust; to develop their skills; and to allow them to find their own way.

In short, it’s providing for your volunteers, so that they, in turn, can provide as well.

This is why the local people we work with are not called  ‘volunteers’.

The term doesn’t capture this crucial exchange of value that successful involvement requires.

The term volunteer is laden with existing associations and assumptions about the type of relationship, and work, it involves: By definition, it is a label given to people working for free.

It is all about whether they are being paid or not. Instead, ‘collaborators’ is more flexible − there is a value exchange which needn’t be financial.

The limitations of the term ‘volunteering’ may also be something that businesses acknowledge too: many now talk instead of ‘employee engagement’.

Employee engagement sounds Better; but it’s still one-way, prioritising business interests over the social ones.

So we prefer to talk about employee impact. It recognises that each employee is a potential agent of change − for society, themselves, and for the company.

And if that impact is to happen, an exchange of value must happen too.

Correctly identifying and managing this exchange – between the business, the employee, and the cause – is key to creating a scheme that benefits all parties. End of post

How about the other side of the coin of volunteering schemes?

Now is a good time to develop and find a better term for Scheme, a term that has a negative connotation…?

Have you heard of” subjets”? All those people volunterering for experiments, in medical testing (cobaye), in graduate experimental works, volunteered by first year psychology student for course credits, soldiers, a draft soldiers volunteering for reforestation, cleaning up after natural calamities, college students volunteering for “caritative activities”, in market research, collecting data by phone, filling questionnaires, indirectly providing serious information by using social platforms, or allowing Big Brother to listen to your messages…

Let’s face it: Even students who graduated from universities have been working for free for many years, on the ground that these volunteering works are great opportunities to “exchange values, skills, talents, shmoozing, collecting contacts, accumulating referrences…”, enriching our CV with all kinds of irrelevant actions that filled the void, the lost time… to making companies richer by our free professional work…

People in their 30’s, in the full energy of their life, still in the volunteering phase, on the ground of economic downturn, of participating for the general good…

I thought volunteering time and energy is for the retired people, still good enough to fill the void on the ground, out to meet people, discuss with live-people, share their “wisdoms”….

Time to start paying up in money or in kind of equal material values…

Come to think of it: What is meant by sharing values?

Are we talking of volunteering is mostly demanded from “minorities” and the poorer classes so that value systems are discussed and a common denomenator value system is established among the various communities to harmonize the society?

Diary of a potential volunteer day-work in Rashaya (Lebanon): Or May be Not!

Saturday, Sept 17, 2011.

I woke up at 4:30 am and got busy preparing a large bag for a volunteer day-work in the village of Rashaya in west Bekaa Valley.

Rashaya is the gateway for hiking expeditions to Mount Haramoun (Hermon) or Jabal al Rab (over 3,500 meters in altitude), where Jesus supposedly was transfigured and showed up alongside Elias and someone else…

I have another larger bag for sleepover occasions that I used once in the last 10 years.

This program is a grant from Italy and coordinated by the ministry of social affairs.  The project is to refurbish all the 140 doors of the shops of the Old Souk…The program is for a series of 3-day volunteer works until the doors are done…

Ironically, this project was delayed twice. Why?

Every week, the minister Fa3our is either sick or busy to show up in Rashaya to have his picture taken. A few NGOs got pissed off and refused to participate any longer in that project. We have hundreds of NGO: They train people on how to fill and complete forms for grants…and very few other “useful” things…

I wore the T-shirt for this targeted project.  Let me think; I guess this is the only T-shirt I have that says “volunteer work”.  As if I am that stupid, at his advanced age, to physically get on my knees to rub and paint stupid doors…

I have been witnessing horror stories: University graduates in their late 20’s and 30’s, not finding steady jobs, or even temporary paying jobs, registering for volunteer projects with promises of free outing and free food…

I was supposed to be on the road around 6:15 am, but without warning me, Cedric decided that this time is too early.

I got in the car by 8 am and headed up toward Majdal Tarshish (1,200 meters in altitude), another road that links the seashore to the Bekaa Valley, beside the “Arab Highway” that passes by Aley, and has not advanced a single mile in the last two decades.

We crossed two dozen heavy trucks carrying loads from three big quarries in Majdal Tarshish.  I wish these trucks will dump their cargoes at a very useful public work, in order to justify these unlicensed quarries to keep functioning freely outside laws and regulations.  The trucks are either Abil Lama3, MSC, or non-marked.

We stopped at a small restaurant in Majdal Tarshish that serves breakfast of manakeesh, fresh vegetable, cheese, eggs, bread on saj… It turned out that the owner is the uncle of Father Simon, director of the private and religious school of St. Joseph in Cornet Chehwan.

Father Simon was the rector of the private Christian Maronite school of St. Joseph in Kornet Chehwan; he is now managing the religious association Caritas targeting needy communities and families: I am not sure this organization is transparent enough to verify that donated money is reaching the proper destinations.

We got back on the road at 9:30.  Ten minutes later, we had a flat tire. We used the spare tire that was not suitable to continue our trip.

I always warn people to borrow new cars for long trips.  We could see the Bekaa Valley down there; we saw a huge column of black fumes reaching 100 meters in the air: Was it a fire or an industrial complex…?

On our way back, we had to bypass the trucks.  The speed signs on the return way said 30 km.  I guess the signs were meant for the trucks, but we had to deal with this ugly reality since nothing was specific.

Cedric saw a tire shop in Bikfaya and got a deal to change two tires for $105 each.  Cedric dropped me home and went ahead to withdraw money…

The day was not a total loss: Days are never a loss to me, as long as I manage to post articles, read books, tend my garden, and do house chores…

Adrea is at the beach: She returned from a 3-week vacation in London, visiting her sister Joanna.

Chelsea refuses to study and joined the scouts’ activities this afternoon.

Raymonde is beside herself on how to control this Chelsea, the latest of 6, who dreams to be an actor in Hollywood…

I posted two articles and working on two other articles. Saturday, Sept 17, 2011.

Note: I almost forgot: I had my head shaved yesterday.  For over a year, I grew long hair and attached a ponytail.  I feel relieved, light, and energized.

I wake up looking as I looked before going to bed, no fuzzy hair every which way…. Many think that shaving my head was a drastic statement, sort of “I am still daring community common opinions...”.

This idea of shaving head was not originally in the plan: I am not an artist, or in the art business. It was a split-second decision, but I certainly love the interpretation.  I believe that extreme behavioral statements, Not political opinions, are the salt of mankind life.

Actually, I had my head shaved for a couple of weeks, three years ago, just to see how my head looked like, and if it was round enough and in nice shape…People didn’t like my head, my shaved head, and I was unable to get impartial feedback. (I think my shaved head is ugly and Not fit for esthetics)

At least, the skin of my head recovered health and got tanned for a while, for the first time in my long life. I intend to keep shaved the sides of my head, for the time being.

Day 1. Volunteered two hard days of work: In Kawzah (South Lebanon)?

August 27, 2011 

It is a small village in south Lebanon, this Kawzah, barely 50 families still hanging on, and a tiny St. Joseph church looking neglected from the outside, though fine and shining in the inside.

The church needed a face lift, repainting walls white, the iron fences and doors black, and planting a few plants in the miniature wild garden…and mainly collecting the dirt and a good hosing down of the yard…

Kawzah is mainly two hills: One of the hills is occupied by the UN peace contingent of Ghana. The money is from an old grant signed with Italy in 2007. (see note 1)

Volunteering two hard days of work for a stupid church?

Not my cup of tea: It would have never crossed my mind to beautify a church, since the concept of religion is anathema to me, a dangerous exclusive concept that was not intended to bring peace and equitable behavior to mankind.

Maintaining a church was not my goal for this adventure: I wanted to get acquainted with the western region of south Lebanon and get to meet the youth…

Cedric woke me up at 6:15 am:  We had to drive to the ministry of social affairs in Badaro to join a bus, for about a 3-hour trip.

My niece Chelsea came along: She just had two days of scout camp, and barely had enough hours of sleep.  She made up the loss in sleeping in the car all the way.  This was the case of Cedric too: He had two hours of sleep.  And I wonder, are volunteers lacking sleep serious about working?

We brought sleeping bag on account that we were to sleep in a vacant school.  No bus was waiting for us.

Instead, Emilie the project coordinator was waiting (see note 2 in Day Two).

Since over 40 volunteers were expected to arrive from the neighboring villages to Kawzah, it was advantageous to cut down on expenses. Consequently, we waited for the chief coordinator Hala to arrive and drove in two cars.

As we were waiting, a tall and chubby guy showed up carrying a small bag and a large plastic bag.  His name is Ihab.  Ihab began his marathon of talk:  He was waiting since 6:30 am for this bus to show up, and then he walked around the corner and met us.

Hala arrived with Michelle.  Michelle had barely two hours of sleep since she spent last night dancing in a bar in Gemmayzeh till 5 am. Chelsea joined the car of Hala.  Cedric and Ihab and I accompanied Emilie.

We stopped at a Bohsali sweet shop by Tyr and waited for Hala.  Ihab explained that the portion of the highway from Saida to Tyre was not constructed because late Rafic Hariri PM decided to build a Mosque in the name of his father, just where the highway was planned to pass. The reverse trip on the highway is fine all the way, and passes by the Main Street of Saida and by the mosque.

Ihab never stopped talking: He has this urge of cutting in every conversation as he recalled a story to tell.  Usually Ihab starts with a long introduction and then forget the main topic.  Ihab keeps repeating his stories.  It is kind he has a Markov memoryless dysfunction Markov Chain process is a mathematical probability method where an event cannot remember the previous event, it has no links whatsoever…

Iqbal is a professional “search and locate” of volunteer associations and NGO that provide expense-free adventure in transport, food and lodging for free work.  This trip was supposed to be free as announced.

Iqbal claims that he has been volunteering for these kinds of associations since 2001 and has visited most of Lebanon.  He claims that he established his own NGO, but it is not taking off, due to his “control freak” attitude.

Although Emilie has done this trip once before, we had to ask for directions for added confirmation:  We were already 30 minutes late for the appointed schedule.

We arrived at 10:30.  The dozen gallons of paints were there, but not the tener bottles for thinning and cleaning paints. The paint rollers and garden equipments were ready, but the plan for beginning the work was still in the “planning phase”.

There was a confusion of how to start, since the expert artisans had not received direction to guide and train the troops.

We were divided into three groups. White T-shirt were distributed. I decided to join the group of wall painters and took the initiative to rub and clean a wall, and then started to paint.

The tone was set and people began to get involved at work.  The sun was scorching and it was hard work at noon time.  It is not possible to work between 11 and 3 pm, but that what we were doing.

It was a field day for the children who enjoyed painting, but they refused to rub and clean the iron first. 

You had more paints on the ground and on shirts and hands than on the iron fences.  You cannot believe the quantity of hand plastic gloves that were wasted: You think they were candies.

The kids also poured more white paints on the floor in the adjacent one room construction than on the walls.

An older person in kaki short hollered to the kids to never touch on paints anymore.  The kids just found another area to bypass the eyes of the kaki-shorted individual. The next day was dedicated to cleaning the mess that the children did!

We had a break around 1:30 pm because food was not ready.  I overheard someone saying that 100  “tawook” (chicken) sandwiches and 100 kafta will be delivered.

I said that quantity was far more than needed and the guy said: “These hard working young men need plenty of nourishment”.  Half of the sandwiches ended as leftover.

We had Pepsi and Miranda for drinks.  Someone asked for hot water for his Nescafe, and I said: “There are plenty of warm potable water, but not that hot for your purpose.”

I told the curator of the church to think of allocating a toilet for this crowd.  One of the doors in the previous municipality quarter was thus opened to give way for a decent WC.

We resumed work around 3 pm, but the energy had gone and we dragged on till 5 pm.  We were supposed to have dinner and an evening of partying (sahra), but the volunteers from the villages of Rmeish and Debel had a wedding to attend to.

The sahra was cancelled to next day afternoon as we finish our job.  Marwan was appointed by Tony to lead us on a tour of the villages of Ain Ebel, Bint-Jbeil and Maroun el Ras in the evening after we had our showers.  The school to sleep in was substituted to a house.

Tony welcomed us to his house in Debel.

The extended family was waiting for us.  It appeared that the houses of Tony’s brothers and sisters, and parents were adjacent to one another, sort of an enclave for the clan. I was kind of apprehensive of shaking hands with the women, but Tony said: “Go ahead, it is alright”

Since everyone was kind of shy, I took advantage to using the shower first.

After my quick wonderful shower, Rita was serving fruits in the open balcony.  (Na3eman Adonis). Hala and Michelle used the shower of Tony’s brother home. Such a clear night: It seemed to me that all the stars in the sky were concentrated on top of me; so many stars, and so close to one another.

I learned that Tony and Marwan spent three years in Naharya (Beach town in Israel/Palestine) after Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 24, 2000 without any preconditions or negotiation. 

Marwan must have been a child then and joined his parents to Israel, supposedly fleeing the wrath of Hezbollah for  them joining, facilitating,  and participating in Israel occupation of south Lebanon for 25 years.

Tony did a six month prison term in the infamous Roumieh prison, after he returned to Lebanon. Six months in Roumieh, a prison designed for 1,500 prisoners and currently holding 4,000 prisoners is a brutal prison term: Drugs flow freely in that prison and conditions are very bad.

Marwan joined us on the vast balcony.  Alex, the 11 year-old son of Tony kept lighting firecrackers.  Michelle is scared of firecrackers and I told Alex to bring a book so we can read. Alex said :”7el 3anni” (keep away from me) and resumed firing.

Is this need to hearing loud cracking noises a new gene that grew out of 15 years of brutal civil war?

Seems people who were not born during the civil war (1975-1990) need hearing bombing to feel that life is back to normal!

This summer, firecrackers turned out to be of the very powerful kinds and the ministry of interior prohibited firecrackers.  Two weeks of reprieve for our ears was all that resulted: Firecrackers of heavier caliber surfaced to “disturb the peace”.

Debel is built on a hill, and it is surrounded by 7 hills, two of the hills are part of Kawzah and the others are part of Debel, though nothing is built on them.

I asked Marwan if there is any river crossing the tight valley and he said that only one potable fresh source is available down the valley, and water flows into a small lake (berkeh).

Marwan said that he heard that, in early days, water depth reached the neck of camels, but now water reaches you waist.  Marwan resumed: “Once a year, the village of Debel descend to clear and clean the water source area, but the residents of the village of Anouf throw all kinds of waste in there” (Marwan meant that the Chias of that village do not respect the environment…)

As everyone had his shower by 9 pm, we drove in two cars and passed Ain Ebel, Rmeish, Bint Jbeil, Yaroun, and Maroun al Ras.

We could see the dozen lighted Jewish colonies.  A few colonies use yellow lights and others blueish.  I presume the older colonies use older yellow lighting bulb.  I noticed red lights, spaced a mile away.  Marwan said the red lights might be used to delimit boundaries; it does not explain that the red lights reach deep into the colonies.

There is a new fantastic and new resting place up there in Maroun el Ras, facing down the Jewish colonies.  Families spend their days and evening in individual booths, equipped with a water fountain and a grill.

Each booth is named after an Iranian district with details on the districts, such as area, population, where it is located on the map…One handicap though:  The toilets are Arabic style, which means you have to stoop on your heels.  I can do that for three minutes, but then if my bowel movement is not that ripe, I might end up sitting on my shit… (The night is not over. Expect continue of Day 2)

Note 1:  Italy had signed grant contracts with the ministry of social affairs in 2007, but it will not renew any grants before 2013 for budget cuts, sort of cutting expenses on foreign aids, a million here and a million there so that Italy air force may purchase an extra fighter jet in order to play the game of cat and mouth with presumed “rogue States“.

It is the same story with Spain, France…Italy has one of the largest UN contingent in South Lebanon.  Italy has donated a bus to the nearby village of Debel, a couple of miles from Kawzah. The bus purpose is to provide transport of elder people for tour trips and occasional events such as wedding and tasting of food of student cooks…I used to organize these kinds of tour for elderly people in San Francisco…

Note 2: Read day two https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/day-2-volunteered-two-hard-days-of-work-in-kawzah-and-western-south-lebanon/


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