Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Good-Samaritan-ism

The Latino Farmers Cooperative is in recruitment mode!

Tom's face

We have many openings for internships and the race is on to fill these slots. Since many of our interns and volunteers are students we need to start now for 2014. Even before Thanksgiving we are attending service fairs and changing documents to ‘Spring 2014’. Students operate on a planning schedule much earlier and more rigid than our regular community volunteers. La Cooperativa has registered for Loyola’s serve fair and Tulane‘s intern fair will be one of our best sources this year for our labor backbone.

It is worth mental investigation that the non-profit sector relies on volunteer labor. In a world where investment shows commitment and true concerns, the non-profit world is viewed as exceptional when it can fulfill large swaths of it’s duties without paying its labors’ for their efforts. Much our funding world is becoming less concerned with that dreaded overhead, but none the less people are always impressed that our staff of six is supported by over 40 volunteers each semester. I myself would highlight it as a success of my co-workers and our organizational skills that we can do so and in ways that engage our volunteers and our participants.

Why are we supposed to operate minimally for those who need maximum aid? The boot strap mentality also praises the good Samaritan. Are our cliches clashing? We invest in so many things (consumption, vacations, more capital) but we think those without need to just figure themselves out. But despite this prevailing mentality (spoken in donation if not word) we still lift up and idealize those who serve. And while we are praising the servant, we readily judge the served.

Of course not all non-profits operate on volunteers’ gifts. Many organizations, such as Second Harvest, do not rely on volunteer labor. But even this corporation relies on the rest of the food banks network chain to enact its mission and those organizations do. So indirectly even this behemoth of giving depends on volunteer efforts and commitments.

It comes to one important functional question: why does the volunteer serve? We love our service learners but for their and our benefit we don’t expect them to be essential volunteers. Our main tour d’force of volunteers are hard working adults with little true free time to speak of. While, in theory, these folks could be deducting $19.33/hr for every hour of service, my volunteers are always surprised and vaguely disinterested when I mention this. With no financial gain, why do we volunteer? A central question for a volunteer recruiter and coordinator.

Tom and Fernando sitting with Margaret and Thomas, CPS interns Fall 2013

Tom and Fernando sitting with Margaret and Thomas, CPS interns Fall 2013

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This entry was posted on December 6, 2013 by in VISTA Field Reports and tagged , .

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