Another manager of volunteers champion in the making Sarah Jane Parton (pictured left) is co-manager (her colleague is Linda Beatson) of Aro Valley Community Centre. The hours these two women work are minimal and to make the shared role effective, they communicate regularly but are usually on site separately.
To avoid feelings of isolation, which can be an issue with sole positions where activity comes and goes, Sarah
made a decision early on in the job, to involve as many volunteers as possible.
‘We also quickly realized there was far more work to be done than we could possibly fit into our timeframes.
Extending our capacity with a diverse volunteer team was the answer.’
In previous positions involving flm and art projects, Sarah has managed large teams of volunteers. Nevertheless, she admits the designing of roles and delegation of tasks at the community centre, has been a ‘fast learning curve’.
We talked with new volunteer Seka Jones (right). A graphic designer keen to combine ‘making a difference’ with work experience, she was attracted by the role description on Volunteer Wellington’s database. In a nutshell,
the position was about designing and painting banners and posters which would promote community activities.
The one being worked on when this interview took place was a street proclamation calling all locals to come to a meeting to hear what the Lambton Ward candidates standing for Wellington City Council, had to say.
As Sarah said, ‘Keeping residents around here informed and knowledge-able about local issues is one of our main aims.’ A series of community gardens was another innovative project that resulted in volunteer roles combining art ideas and practical hard work. Some of the gardens are ‘secret’ and others visibly public. All are edible and about local involvement.
With the community centre’s proximity to the university and student accommodation, several international students with agricultural backgrounds (Papua New Guinea, the Solomon and Maldive Islands are examples) have signed up to the protocols associated with the ‘secret’ gardens. Almost 50 volunteers take part in growing vegetables and fruit trees for harvesting and sharing. The art element, in the form of posters and other eye-catching signs, has been the communication hook. This has meant a clever combination of promotional and people power.
Other roles created and now managed by Sarah and Linda, are daily administrators, skilled tutors and IT specialists. ‘We’re in a tricky transition phase here,’ said Sarah. ‘Our resources are so limited and our computers are desperately in need of upgrading.’ At the time of writing, an expert through Volunteer Wellington, was doing a re-build, re-installing job. He was impressed with the energy and vitality of the community centre – and the versatile co-ordinators.
‘They’re politically aware, keen for local involvement and understand the potential of developing and managing volunteer teams. An effciently networked computer system will help them on their way.’