Each year in April we have the opportunity to celebrate our dedicated volunteers during National Volunteer Appreciation Week. This week, this year, we celebrate our volunteers in a new way, under new circumstances. COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives in countless different ways. A metaphor that resonates with me as we navigate this new situation is that we are all in the same boat, but not in the same storm. While we are all adjusting to this new “normal,” everyone’s journey will look different. Everyone faces different sacrifices, different obstacles, and different feelings. Despite all of these challenges, our volunteers have continued to amaze us in their dedication and willingness to help.
When all of this began, and before I really had time to process the changes this pandemic would have on our volunteer program, I began receiving emails from volunteers asking how they can help REACH, both virtually and when our offices are back open. These volunteers have their own families, their own careers, and many are college students learning how to adjust to online learning. All of these volunteers have plenty to focus on, yet REACH is still a priority to them, and for this we are forever grateful.
So, what does virtual volunteering look like in the times of COVID-19? That’s a good question, and one we continue to carefully examine. So far, it has looked like volunteers doing hours of research to make sure domestic violence resources are easily accessible to those in need of support at an extremely vulnerable time. It has looked like residential volunteers sending educational and self-care resources to children and adults in our shelter. It has looked like virtual volunteer meetings instead of in person meetings to maintain connection in a socially distanced world. It has looked like new prospective interns and volunteers reaching out to find out how they can help survivors, eager to learn about becoming a volunteer or hosting a gift card donation drive. The response from our volunteers at this time has only magnified our appreciation and gratitude. So, to all of our volunteers and interns, thank you, you are so appreciated. This work could not get done without you.
We anticipate that when our office reopens, there will be an increased need for our services, and this increase in need will only be met with the help of our volunteer and intern team. If reading this has inspired you to get involved with REACH, I highly recommend reading this blog by my colleague, Lauren Montanaro, in which she shares how we can all be supporting survivors during COVID-19. I also encourage you to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m always happy to chat and discuss volunteer and internship opportunities!