Believing that volunteer work is a pathway to self-confidence, building life skills and preparing youngsters for the workplace, Lisa Garson initiated Action Volunteer Africa (AVA) in Cape Town in January 2012.
Garson, a former human resources manager, and director at volunteer recruitment agency Action Appointments, believes that placing youth volunteers in non-profit organisations (NGOs) helps them gain skills and strengthen the society in which they live.
She says, “Most of the kids we work with are from poor backgrounds and each of them have big dreams, however due to their current state they either find it hard to excel with their education or find a job, so we give them the opportunity to gain working experience and improve their ability in job hunting or, for some, finding their creative side.”
She adds, “We want to motivate our youth to volunteer in places that teach you how to be that kind, giving person and although it may be hard for some of them to keep up or continue work with no pay we have programmes that help us generate an interest for them to keep coming back.”
Youngsters who sign up with AVA go through a three-day orientation course focusing on topics such as volunteer orientation, expectations, active citizenry, personal awareness and diversity sensitivity. They must be available to devote at least six months to a volunteer post, receiving only a monthly transport allowance.
Volunteers are then supported by monthly motivation forums for feedback and reflection sessions. The NGOs they sign up with commit to training and supervising them.
On the programmes, Garson says, “How wonderful it is to see a young mind bring out their creative side as during these programmes we get them to work on some art such as painting or playing with clay.
“We also have them recite poems or write letters which they will later read out loud.”
In the forums guest facilitators also help the volunteers through discussions on asset development and saving, community participation, emotional intelligence, personal branding and using social media for communication.
The AVA 2013 programme recruited 30 volunteers; successful volunteers are those who want to help others, take responsibility for their future success and who have a willingness to learn through service.
“I have noticed in my life that sustained volunteering is one of the best ways to help young adults grow from their personality, making them aware of the social issues within their community,” said Garson.
“We can’t however pay our recruits but we do make sure that they get to work every time with the small transport allowance that we give them although we wish we could do more.”
Through their volunteering, recruits have a chance to find their talents and passion, put work experience on their CVs and develop networks within the fields they volunteer in.
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For more information, and to assist AVA, email email@example.com or call 021 671 3150.