Saturday, April 7, 2012

Levels of Volunteering

Huffington Post posted this article Volunteering in the wake of disaster, while reading it I began to think about the different levels of disaster volunteers. I think we have two maybe three levels of volunteer
1. Immediate or rescue volunteers - This category of volunteer is the one who responds in moments to hours and in some cases days.  They are your firemen, EMT's and even the neighbor leaving their home to rescue a neighbor.

2. Support volunteer- I think the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. fall into this category.  I'm sure there are others that fit, but the point is this is the level of volunteer that is/should be making the transition with the rescued from saving to helping.  They are providing shelter, security, food. This is the point in the process where the survivors begin to pitch in.  Having worked with the Red Cross we encourage folks living in Mass Care shelters to become part of the effort to shelter them, even in small ways.

3. Recovery/Rebuilding volunteer- This is the point I pulled from the article, while they were talking about disasters in the third world, the lessons fit here at home too.  At this point we want to bring the survivors into the recovery and make them a full partner.  Granted if you are a medical volunteer, you are not going to transfer those technical skills, but at this point you should be teaching them how to care for their recovery after you are gone. For someplace like Haiti, there are many things you can impart that will help the population and make them responsible; training groups in CERT skills is hopefully a priority; they are not suddenly out of a earthquake, or hurricane area. In Joplin, teaching building skills that make sense for homes in tornado alley. And of course CERT skills. 
I think my point is recovery is a journey and so should the type of volunteering that happens. This careful move from one level to another takes skills and planning of a caring trained volunteer manager should think about in the planning phase.

disaster dave