Jamaica 4-H club credits volunteerism for success
One of Jamaica's largest and oldest voluntary organisations, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, has credited its success and effectiveness to provision of support and measurable feedback from its volunteers.
Dr Ronald Blake, executive director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, made the disclosure while presenting at the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) Volunteer Conference, which was held on Tuesday, November 29, at the Terra Nova Hotel.
The conference was held in collaboration with the Peace Corps under the theme "Strengthening Volunteerism".
Speaking on the topic "Structuring Volunteerism", Blake, who was presenting the Jamaica 4- H Clubs' perspective, said that managing volunteers was essential to running a successful voluntary organisation.
"Why is the Jamaica 4-H programme so effective? This is because we have a ratio of staff to volunteer of 1:41, and it, therefore, means that there is a staff member for every 41 volunteers. Volunteers need support," he said.
He further noted that providing measurable feedback was also key to retaining volunteers. "Volunteers feel good not because you give them money and awards. It is when you are able to measure their results and share their successes with them. It is the biggest award that you can give them," said Dr Blake.
The Jamaica 4- H Clubs was established 78 years ago and has a membership of 110,502.
The Jamaica Red Cross and the Heart Trust/NTA said that training, especially in personal development, enables volunteerism to thrive. Donna Thomas, human resource manager, said that at the Jamaica Red Cross, volunteers are trained in first aid, practical home nursing, psychosocial, disaster preparedness and humanitarianism.
"Training is critical for our volunteers at the Jamaica Red Cross because there are specific areas that the Red Cross operates in such as medical services - first aid. We have a number of volunteers who become instructors," she said. "It is important that they are trained, and we are cognisant that persons want to be empowered and we believe that training is that tool that empowers our volunteers."
Thomas revealed that the Jamaica Red Cross courses are internationally recognised. She also reinforced Blake's point that providing feedback to volunteers on their performance was important.
"If you have volunteers working with your system over a number of years, they want to know how you feel about them. So recognition starts with you telling them about their performance," she said, adding that long-service awards were also important in recognising the contribution of volunteers.
Janet Pullen, chair of the planning committee for the conference at the CVSS, said that the main goal of the conference was to look at the challenges facing volunteerism in Jamaica and to gather information to drive policy and capacity of the sector.
She said findings from the conference will be documented and presented to the Jamaican Government in an effort to drive policy on creating a charter/declaration for volunteerism in Jamaica.