In response to volunteering

To the Editor:

For three years (I won’t say which years, because I don’t want to publicly point out the organization), I volunteered art lessons with watercolour and drawing for a mental health group.

I paid for all the materials and used non-volunteer time to shop for what was needed to hold weekly classes.

I approached admins for permission to ask for funds from another charity group in my own town. I received a letter giving me permission to approach them, and I followed the admin rules to have this request submitted. It took about three months.

I was not to handle the funds, but the amount (not revealed to me), was confirmed to have been handed over to the admins of this organization.

I was then asked to write up a list of materials that would be used to offer better workshops to the clients of the day centre. Which I did and I received a reply saying something along the lines of: “these people don’t know the difference between cheaper materials and quality, as they have no awareness of what art can be”. This seemed cruel and arrogant on the part of the writer/admin.

I later found that the good quality materials were purchased, and were handed to another volunteer in another town, part of the same organization, who had done none of the work I had with the group in my own area. I suppose the mental health clients enjoying art classes at this other locale were more “aware”?

The attitude towards people who struggle with mental health as ‘not knowing the difference’ I found to be arrogant. I knew from working with this group that they were well aware of good and bad paint, and cheap brushes that fall apart… It seemed so arrogant and hurtful and I was troubled on their behalf.

I quit volunteering forever after that. For three years I had worked closely with these wonderful people, and found several good people who had high artistic potential. They had reportedly become happier and more outgoing in the group homes that case workers visited.

On another aspect of volunteering, I noticed that some in charge of the volunteers suffered from arrogance and abused their authority and behaved in superior ways. I volunteer from the heart and put all my goodwill into it

I volunteered every Christmas for a party event for destitute women and noticed that not all the food made it to the tables, and some of my kitchen materials had been taken by someone. I had also noticed that some volunteers received rewards and others none, or very token – the favoritism also felt unjust. I quit there too.

So before gassing on about the need for volunteers, let’s pay them, as they get the same verbal abuse, the same unfair treatment, and are asked to put in extra time, do “other chores” like washing dishes and floors and run errands and are expected to drive a needful person to just ‘one more location’ and the volunteer is exhausted and the mileage used for unexpected detours was not always reimbursed under the excuse that ‘you did not have to do this extra’ mileage. I was 64 years old at the time and had to shovel the snow that a young male, paid employee, had refused to do.

So I will not be volunteering ever again. Now, agencies who want and need volunteers had best find a way to protect the rights of the volunteer workers, or pay them. They receive the same kind of rotten treatment that paid full-time workers receive at the hands of supervisors.

If ever I do volunteer again, it will be on a strictly personal and a one-time thing only – ever. Enough.

Christine Godin,


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