WORKING AS A VOLUNTEER MEANS YOU ARE NOT WORKING FOR A WAGE, BUT WHAT ARE YOU WORKING FOR?
Working as a volunteer means you are not working for a wage, but what are you working for?
The Mansel Green plan relies on people volunteering their time and energy to implement appropriate local action on climate change. A true demonstration of generosity, but why do it?
On the regular Wednesdays and Saturdays we have run for the last month our volunteers have included asylum seekers, ;local residents some regular, some a one off and charity trustees.
What are our day to day motivations? Here is an attempt to summarise the main drivers:
socialising, making friends, teamwork
This is the most obvious and common motivator to attend, getting things done in a group and sharing experience is enjoyable and addictive. We are social animals and it is natural to work in groups. We can get a greater work load done and that feels good, a collective good. It motivates hard physical work. Working with and talking with the asylum seekers opened my eyes to how dangerous the world is and how important it is to listen to other people’s personal accounts and experience. I certainly know more about the political situation of Kurdistan and Sudan. Working with local village resident Nick gives me a perspective of village life over decades and helps me understand Bishopston better. We can also enjoy working with like minded people which reduces our isolation by demonstrating how much we need each other.
experience, training, CV building activity
Learning new things can be exciting and challenging. Boredom is often characterised by too little stress, learning new things stretches and works your mind and provides healthy levels of stress. Especially when you learn skills and share knowledge while not even realising it. Building experience increases our confidence and transferable skills we use elsewhere, including the work place.
shared purpose bigger than our selves.
As a motivator this cannot be under estimated. When it works it contributes to our personal wellbeing and wellbeing of wider community and the natural world. It is bigger than our selves, a letting go of exclusive personally driven behaviour. This is summarised by a young volunteer Rhian who said ‘I felt it was better to do some work on a collective project rather than a private garden’. We feel good about ourselves.
Understanding why we do something is paramount to this process. Tom Crompton in his work on communicating climate change and engaging people to take action. It illustrates that we should assume the majority of people wish to do something positive about the environment but how that is translated in our practical actions is at times complex and multifaceted. The key is to keep it simple, do the deadly obvious and be consistent without being obsessed with what others think of you.
I am reminded by the beautiful film ‘The Man who planted trees’. A fable where a single man plants trees every day to re-populate a windswept valley. Over decades of consistent hard work he creates a diverse home for nature which includes the happiness of the humans. At the beginning of his journey locals either ignore him or think he is an eccentric. The story is told by one young man who helps him for a short while and returns many years later. The man had the faith of his convictions even though he had to work most of the time on his own.
All this can be summed up as lessons on interconnection
A delicate process of engagement, combating doubt, apathy and despair