Design #8

Volunteers

Client: Myself and my Volunteers
Location: Finca Florecer
Date Started:
Date Finished:
Design Process:
 Survey 

With one and a half hectares of land, house and a family to maintain on a low income, I can't get ahead of jobs around the farm on my own. Friends and family are significant support, but they have their own lives to live and can not give me the time I need to fulfil my projects, especially when more than two hands are required.
A friend had joined an online volunteer website called WWOOF, where for a small membership fee, you could advertise for help on your organic farm. Volunteers are the perfect opportunity for me to find the help I need.
After travelling for many years and being accustomed to meeting new people regularly, I felt lost in my own company. Bringing travellers to me helped ease the feeling of being static.
I joined WWOOF in November 2008. In April 2009, I hosted my first wwoofer, Nick from England. Since then, I have been taking volunteers regularly. It is a fantastic experience that I enjoy immensely. We get a lot of work done, but it's very exhausting for me, and my daughters needed family time too.
I want to design a system that would make the most of the volunteers, without exhausting myself and allow time to spend for me to spend with my family.

Analysis

Volunteers have an 'agreement’ not ‘contract 

A ‘role’ not ‘job description’

There are ‘expectations’ not ‘obligations’

Being on my own with two children, sometimes the adult company is appreciated, and it is good to have someone else with which to share ideas.
I enjoy sharing and enforcing my knowledge with others.
By design I can build a more complete and efficient relationship between the volunteers, myself, the land and the yields that all these elements will create.

Wants and needs:

Why do I need Volunteers?

  • To help me with projects on the farm

  • Share knowledge, skills and life

  • To enable me to focus on more skilled tasks/jobs

  • Help reflect and build a bridge between myself and the community

  • Company and friendship

  • An excellent way to meet new people with similar interests

  • Positive energy flows

  • Motivation

  • Organisation

Why do people volunteer?

Understanding what motivates people to do things for free is fundamental to thinking through and defining the work that volunteers would enjoy, gained knowledge from and leave the farm feeling they had made a valuable contribution.

  • Travel

  • Learn new skills

  • Meet new people and discover new experiences

  • Cheap way to experience a new country and culture

  • Get away from their everyday lives

  • Experience how to live off the land before they do it themselves

Who will volunteer?

  • Age?

  • Experience?

  • On their own or in groups?

  • Different cultures?

  • Different languages?

Volunteers can come at all ages with very different skill sets. Youngsters can be on a gap year from college or university, travelling on a budget, with very little or no experience of working the land or using tools.

The same could be said of someone who has held an office job for the last five years, looking to get out into the countryside for a while and learn a new skill. They could be workaholics that can not have a beach type holiday through the need to be active, or someone could be on a life-changing pathway and are looking for others who are doing the same. They could be on a mission to learn reliant skills that they can take with them to use on their projects. There are even professional volunteers that travel from site to site.

Many of them could be unskilled in the areas they would be working in or bring a wealth of knowledge with them.

They can be on their own or a couple, parent and child, or just friends on a journey together.

Many will be from different countries and cultures and might not speak my language or the language of the country in which they are travelling.

Resources

What paperwork do I need to host volunteers?

  • Insurance

  • government

General house insurance covers fundamental issues, but it would be good to make sure that each volunteer has their own travel/health insurance in case of emergencies.

I must inform the police, who is staying at the farm, for how long, including a copy of their passports/identity cards.

What is my induction basics?

  • Application form

  • welcome note

  • information pack

An application form sent out to the volunteer before they arrive will provide pre-knowledge of their needs and requirements, their skill basis. Allowing me to find a project that suits them best.
A welcome note and information pack introduces the volunteer to the farm and gives them a rough idea of the work they will be doing and how many hours they will work — preparing them for their stay.

What are my volunteer requirements?

  • Work in exchange for food and accommodation

  • to be made to feel welcome, accepted and valued

  • to be shown the project in a clear and constructive manner

  • developing inclusive volunteering roles.

  • It is harder to involve volunteers with low skills or experience without fully thinking through what roles they can do and what support or training you can offer.

  • The essential exchange of the agreement is to work in exchange for food and accommodation. Giving my woofers a comfortable bed and good food is necessary for the work. It can be very physical at times, and without adequate rest and substance, this can affect their work and emotions.

  • Upon arrival volunteers should be introduced to all people who will be involved in their stay, the running of the house, shown their accommodation and a tour of the property and a run through the farms' guidelines and are made to feel at home.

  • Giving the volunteer clear instructions on the work they need to do and what they are aiming to achieve gives a sense of purpose.

  • Encouraging feedback and suggestions gives a chance for innovation and cooperation, making the volunteer feel involved and their opinion valued, it will also help me to assess the working environment and atmosphere.

  • The volunteer will be involved with the running of the household, although they also need their own time and privacy.

  • It is essential to have various projects of different skill levels. Projects with basic instruction could be worked on without any supervision, to projects that need more involvement. 

  • Identifying needs and assessment

  • Initial assessment (application form) for individual requirements.

  • Capabilities

  • expectations and motivation for their stay

  • Monitor work, watch for where assistance is needed or where their excelling.

  • Finding tasks to motivate them and gain confidence in what they can do.

  • Develop a clear understanding of volunteers' roles and make better use of their skills

  • Where will it make a difference in my life?

  • Time

  • Motivation

  • Help me eat some of my produce

  • Company

  • Teach me how to be a good teacher and gain experience working with others.

  • Volunteers bring diversity which enriches the organisation

  • What can I offer?

  • Work

  • Experience

  • Food

  • Accommodation

  • Time / duration

  • How many can I host?

  • 2 / 4

  • What type of database will I use?

  • Website platforms

  • My website

  • Advertising

  • Social media

Design

Design Principles

  1. Observe and interact: Before the arrival of the volunteers, the application form helps to ascertain skills and disabilities so I can find the best project to suit their needs and wants. Observing during their stay, the way they work on each project allows me to interact with the volunteers and adjust my teaching skills. Knowing when to step away and leave the volunteer to work on their own gives them the feeling of achievement, providing interaction in the form of guidance and confidence. Observing their eating habits, do they need more food?

  2. Catch and store energy: By taking on volunteers at the right time, the projects will be achieved when they are needed, i.e. winter for preparing the olive trees and collecting the harvest. In spring to prep the garden for planting and turning of compost.

  3. Obtain a yield: Not only from the number of working hours that you receive from the volunteers themselves but also the harvests of olives, vegetables and composts (human and land)

  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback; When working alongside others, it is essential to take their views into consideration. Remember that I am not the all-knowing guru and that they can give excellent ideas that I might not have thought of.

  5. Use and value renewable resources and services:

  6. Using reclaimed materials whenever possible.

  7. Produce no waste: Do not waste the time of the volunteers or myself by being disorganised. Understand the needs of the volunteers such as food or hygiene stops water and food waste.

  8. Design from patterns to details: What patterns occur with the volunteers? When are they happiest? What foods do they like? Sleeping arrangements and energy levels, what affects these?

  9. Integrate rather than segregate: Just by taking on volunteers is an integrated process. Having different volunteers at the same time allows even more integration. Sharing my family life and food provides transparency into the reality of living a more sustainable life, making the volunteers feel at home, explaining what they can and can't do when first arriving gives them the freedom to settle in.

  10. Use small and slow solutions: Do not make the projects too big or longer than the time the volunteers are staying for, or if it is a long project, break it down into manageable parts. Always find an appropriate project that can be done at a leisurely pace with no guidance, for when I can not be there due to work commitments.

  11. Use and value diversity: We are all different, and we all have something to give. Use the opportunity to learn from each other. Learning about the different countries and environments that volunteers have come from or travelled to provide us with a broader sense of diversity. Having various volunteers at the same time or even overlapping can help me, as the present volunteer can assist the new volunteer in the ways of the farm and home.

  12. Use edges and value the marginal: Sharing the edges of my life with a marginal of volunteers gives value to everyone included and the environment where we live.

  13. Creatively use and respond to change; By understanding the aims of the volunteers. What they would like to take away from their experience on the farm, not only helps me adjust the projects to their needs but also lets me see where peoples thinking is in the world today.

Benefits of being a host
  • It's free

  • Get on top of those jobs you've been meaning to do

  • Meet new people, make new friends and share adventures

  • Let the world come to you

  • Exchange skills. Learn and teach new skills

  • Learn and practice a new language

  • Get fresh ideas and perspectives on your project

  • Create new inspirations and dynamics

  • Become part of the global community

  • Revisit with your own city/ town!

  • Have more friends around the world and places to stay

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