Keeping up with the CCFs: Voices from the ground (Alex, 1/2)
Alex is a long-time volunteer with Impart. He started off as Youth Advocate under Impart Education, tutoring and journeying with youths-facing-adversity. Having experienced the joys and tribulations of YA work himself, he stepped up as a Community Care Fellow (CCF), in the pilot program in 2021. Currently, he serves as a co-lead in this year’s iteration of the CCF program.
We hear from Alex, as he reflects on his journey as a CCF in a two-part reflection. This is Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2!
"The strength of a volunteer program might, on first impression, be measured by the amount of good it's able to do. After all, people join such programs with the intention of contributing to people in the community. The more good done for people, the better!
But such a singular focus on output may ironically neglect the volunteers who help to run programs. At risk of stating the obvious, volunteers are people too! People who, even while giving up their time, lead busy lives and may feel overworked, stressed, fatigue, or burnt out. People who, while altruistic and generous, are subject to personal issues that make volunteering and life as a whole more challenging. A volunteer program that only focuses on output is in danger of treating volunteers as expendable and forgetting their human limits and needs. Conversely, a volunteer program that prioritises the well-being of its people, and ensures they are taken care of and have a community of belonging will not only help volunteers better accomplish their tasks, but also support their own growth as persons – the more good done for people, the better!
I have had the opportunity to serve as a Community Care Fellow with Impart over the last two years. The responsibilities of the position have changed quite a bit as the program finds its footing, but the core dedication for the well-being of volunteers and their mental health has remained. My own experiences as a CCF in both the 2021 and 2022 cycles have shown me how the most essential elements of care are cognitive flexibility; we can help each other best by being willing to adapt to their needs in order to serve them most effectively.
There’s one specific memory I associate most with this commitment to changing one’s own preconceived notions of care in order to provide for someone else. The 2021 iteration of the CCF program focused primarily on a mental health survey administered monthly to all volunteers in the organization. After the survey results were processed, all of the CCFs and Impart’s staff would gather on Zoom to share about our volunteers and learn about caring for them. One of the most discussed topics was burn-out, and how to handle it when it surfaced in those around us.
In one of these monthly facilitation sessions, we entered a simulation activity: we were tasked with responding to hypothetical messages from a frantic, burnt-out and fed-up volunteer. While I had never given ample thought to how I may come across over text, especially to someone in duress, I was shown how many of my small and seemingly insignificant word choices made a big difference in helping or even exacerbating the feelings of my recipient. This exercise forced me to consider much more carefully how I can support someone in need, and allowed me to adapt my thoughts and opinions and beliefs regarding care so that I make sure I put the other person first and serve as best I can."
Impart's Community Care Fellows (CCFs) are volunteers who are empowered to improve organizational health and nurture a supportive culture within Impart. They do so by providing psycho-social support for other volunteers — a partial reframing of the “volunteer manager” role.