Volunteers play a huge role at the Anti-Violence Project. They run workshops, organize events, host drop in hours, and many many other amazing things. With our limited paid staff hours, volunteers are essential. This is why we invest so much time (and love) into training them.
We are trying something different this year. We are going to host volunteer training this May (2018! Like in two months!). One of the goals of this change is to have less training upfront and have more continued training over time. The plan is to divide the training into two parts. This will look as follows:
- Part I: May 2018, every tues/thurs evening, for three hours (6 hours each week)
- Part II: September – November 2018, once every two weeks, for three hours (approx. 6 hours each month)
- Between Part I & II (June – August) volunteers will be able to volunteer in the AVP space, continue learning in more informal ways, and prep with us for September orientation
The idea of changing the structure and timing of volunteer training has been on our mind for many years. The format used in the past made it challenging for many people to participate, including folks with marginalized identities (those with family/caregiver commitments, students who take on evening work to pay for school, folks who don’t have the emotional capacity to engage in intense work in a condensed period, etc). As a result the majority of our volunteers are young white cis folks – which seriously limits our ability as an organization to respond to the diverse needs of our community.
We realize we need to do better. With these changes we hope to:
- Make the the training more accessible for folks who may not be able to commit to 40 hours of training jammed into one month
- Eliminate weekend sessions which can conflict with weekend workers and various religious/spiritual observances (and are long and arduous for staff and participants)
- Structure in longer term relationships with and between volunteers
Moving training to May is not perfect. We realize that many students are not in Victoria after the April exam period, and so a May training will limit who can attend. We also recognize that Ramadan begins in May and may impact people’s availability (we are happy to chat with folks about how we can better support their participation). After careful consideration and brainstorming, we have decided to try out a May training this year, as having it outside of winter and fall semesters means there are less stresses and responsibilities on staff, and so less burn out, more time to commit to volunteers, etc. This also means that we will have volunteers throughout the fall and winter semester (in the past we have spent the fall semester training and only had volunteers for the winter semester). Finally, we are hoping that the approaching summer will nourish ours and the volunteers spirits (swimming post training anyone?).
Training volunteers for AVP has never been simple. Sexualized violence is about power and privilege, and therefore our volunteers require an understanding of the roots of violence (such as colonization, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy), along with how to respond to various experiences, identities, and forms of violence in caring and empathetic ways. Violence prevention requires nuanced understandings of systems of oppression which means that there is lot to cover, digest, and un/re/learn during training (much of which we are still working through ourselves). Because of these complexities we have been unable to shorten our training. A shortened training might make volunteering more accessible for some folks, but would have large consequences on AVP’s ability to support our community.
With all this in mind we are trying to balance providing a robust training while also making the training accessible for as many folks as possible. We also want to consider the capacity of our staff (who are all part-time and for whom volunteer training is only a fraction of their responsibilities). It would be awesome if we could run multiple trainings, put our volunteer training online, have several dedicated staff members for training, and have funding to compensate folks who take time away from work to attend our training. Big Dreams. We hope that one day these things will be attainable for AVP. Actually, we hope that gender-based violence ends and we no longer need sexual assault centres and will therefore not need to train volunteers. But anyways.
We know that May isn’t ideal for everyone, but neither was the old format. Please hold with us as we try new things and hopefully make improvements.