Considering volunteering? You can do it safely
In this new world of COVID-19, volunteers are needed more than ever. You may be one of the many people inspired by recent events to turn your communal acts of kindness into formal volunteering with an organisation. But if you’re considering volunteering, you may be feeling uncertain about the health and safety of yourself and others.
During these precarious times, there is a need to protect both our most vulnerable citizens and volunteers. The good news is, organisations in Australia are obliged to engage their volunteers within a framework of good practice principles, and there are also a number of volunteer opportunities you can consider and actions you can take to bring even greater peace of mind…
Know your rights
Volunteering is a choice made by you to help your community. If you choose to volunteer formally through an organisation, both you and the organisation are responsible for ensuring you are safe and enjoy a positive experience in your role.
Some of your rights as a volunteer include:
- protection by appropriate insurance
- proper orientation and training
- a healthy and safe working environment
Don’t hesitate to ask the organisation you are interested in volunteering with, what protocols and procedures they have in place to ensure a COVID-safe environment. There are current guidelines that they need to adhere to and their answers will no doubt provide you with some comfort.
Take baby steps
Choosing a volunteer opportunity that is undertaken in an outdoor setting or with minimal contact is a great way to ease into a volunteering role. Roles such as walking buddy, garden maintenance assistant or driver would fit the bill.
Thanks to technology, you may also wish to consider a remote or non-contact volunteer opportunity.
Here are some roles frequently available:
- food and medication delivery
- mentoring people through virtual meetings
- transcribing documents for a museum
- tutoring and helping students with online learning
- sewing and knitting items to donate
- reviewing and creating resources and promotional materials
- helping people use technology better
- checking in with socially isolated people through a friendly daily phone call
Many of these tasks offer volunteers a sense of purpose while reducing the negative impacts of isolation for the more vulnerable in our community.
Consider health and safety as your number one priority
Everyone has a part to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19, so make sure you’re in great shape when you turn up to volunteer, and don’t hesitate to let the organisation know if you’re not.
Follow directions of trusted authorities such as the Department of Health and Human Services, and your doctor, and check in with the organisation you volunteer with for guidelines on when you should not continue to volunteer.
If you are feeling exposed or unsafe, or have some productive suggestions on how to improve practices, don’t be afraid to offer the organisation some feedback – not only will they appreciate you being proactive, other people may get to benefit from your thoughts and ideas.
Feeling ready to volunteer? Seek volunteer opportunities here.
For more information on volunteering safely during the coronavirus pandemic, view Volunteer Australia’s practical guide for volunteers.