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How can we fix the volunteer problem at the ISL?

We have problem at the ISL . We cannot get any volunteers from the Alman Town community which is closest to the ISL and where most of the young people and adults who use the ISL live.  We are also not getting volunteers from outside the community to work with us at the ISL. Sometimes people ask what they can do but they don’t follow up on their initial interest and they usually have a problem giving  time consistently.  We have tried to offer a small stipend for volunteers in the reading programme at the ISL and even this still doesn’t get us volunteers. Sometimes friends come and support but we need people who are willing to give time consistently.

As soon as i started to write this post i remembered a post i had written at the beginning of the ISL about designing an effective volunteer program.

When asking for volunteers we have only specified the time we need and the activity we want the volunteer to be involved in.

  1. How can we get more community members to support the ISL?
  2. What is a good exchange for the time that people give at the ISL?
  3. What is changing in volunteer culture ?
  4. Do we need to change our approach to building support at the ISL ?

We currently need volunteers for a reading programme for young people ages 4-13 from 4-6pm on a Thursday. We meet the ISL and take the children to Heroes Circle.

We also need volunteers for our Science Technology Art and Maths Programme (STEAM) for  young people ages 4-13 on Wednesdays 3-5pm.


Reading Poster STEAM volunteers





Ideas about volunteers and an effective volunteering programme in Jamaica

Learning at Di Institute.

We have been thinking about how to get people engaged in the work of Di Institute and the HQ. We have a core of people who are always willing to support our work but more recently we have been getting different expressions of interest in volunteering.

I replied to a message last night from someone who wanted to volunteer with us. As soon as i was done i felt nervous. Did i answer correctly? Did i make it sound too complicated, should i have something more official for people to indicate interest? So far people have been going through me or Georgia to say they want to volunteer.

As i felt the nervousness, i began to think it through. Who would be a good volunteers? Why did people really want to volunteer? Could we build a movement/ these spaces on volunteers? Who are volunteers really? In conversation with Georgia we came up with a few observations, thoughts and questions we think would be good to understand more, the volunteer culture in Jamaica or what makes for the creation of an effective volunteer programme in an organization or movement. These are some of the things we have been learning as well.

Problematic aspects of volunteer culture in Jamaica


“Mi juts a help out. So mi we come when mi can come and if u nuh see me mi caan come and nuh cal mi cause u nah pay me.”


  1. The structure that volunteer is coming into is important. Make it easy for volunteers to make a targeted and specific input. ( for example the YMCA mentorship programme has been effective at this)
  2. Having a programme and not a project structure. A programme structure gives the volunteer specific continued areas of work to fit into rather than with projects where there are specific task which needs to be completed usually better by trained or staff familiar with the work.
  3. Ensuring Volunteer accountable. In the Women’s Media Watch Model. Volunteers are called agents, a name change from volunteers and members. Agents can work in different agencies. People indicate areas of interest and targets associated with areas. This helps to ensure accountability and that there are no non-performing volunteers.

 eg.Womens Media Watch Agencies

  • Media

  • Education and Facilitation

  • Training

  • Research

  1. There needs to be someone available to introduce volunteers to the organization.
  2. Based on interactions with you people may want to volunteer. This makes it difficult sometimes because the volunteer may develop expectations based on interactions with you about how the organization works or other persons in the organization.
  3. Find out what the volunteers expect. Job descriptions have not always met volunteers expectations. The level of work and interest may not meet the volunteers needs once they start. For this reason volunteers may prefer to work with larger organizations.
  4. Some people like specific goals and like to keep track of what they are doing. Provide ways to help volunteers document the time they have invested. This also helps the organization with accounting and reporting or raising funds to support staff.
  5. Help people to make a decision about volunteering by providing them with a baseline measure of what is required from them. For example. 8 hours or 1 work day.

What does the volunteer identity mean? What is the entry point for the volunteer?

Two types of volunteers:“The Political” and the “Self-interested” ( not necessarily so stark)

  1. Political volunteers come to connect themselves to issues. The issue or area of work is political for them. They see it as an important area for social change.Political issues maybe related health environment, human rights, education advocacy or activism.
  2. Self-interested- Looking for work experience/ seeing a need and wanting to help out.

Sometimes the usefulness of the organization is around the politics and so the political volunteer is needed.

Afifa and Georgia co-founders ISL and SOUL. P.s forgive all typos in this piece.:)

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