Community Support Network eNews, September 2014 issue
|Dear Community Support Partners and Friends,
First, we would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who joined us in Tucson and shared with us your wonderful insights, innovative ideas and practices, and your helpful feedback. We feel so fortunate to be working with you all in this important work.
A special thanks goes to our partners who presented at workshops: Claudia Antuña, Harvey H. Howell, John Keller, Jennifer Long, Deepinder Mayell, Michelle Garnett McKenzie, Sister JoAnn Persch, Sally Pillay, Jonathan Ryan, Sara Sluszka, and Celia VanDeGraaf. Also, we want to particularly recognize Laurie Melrood and so many other local organizers for organizing an amazing set of border educational tours. Thank you to all of the conference participants for your thoughtful participation.
For those of you who were unable to attend, we hope that the notes we gathered from conversations at the conference and sent out to our network are useful and meaningful. Also, look for further materials for the network including summaries of site visit reports from hubs across the country and additional evaluation materials.
We look forward to continued conversations with many of you regarding the expansion of family detention and other needs from the border crisis of the past several months. I visited San Antonio and Austin this month including a tour of the Karnes family detention facility. Several materials are forthcoming including a report on the renewed use of family detention.
Many of the discussions at the recent L4 conference centered on volunteer engagement in our organizations and the best strategies for managing and utilizing volunteers. There are many strategies organizations can employ to recruit volunteers, and one approach is to partner with a volunteer corps, which typically allows an organization to hire a full-time volunteer for a year. This month we talked to Jennifer Long, Executive Director of Casa Marianella, about her organization’s 20-year experience with hiring members of volunteer corps.
At Casa Marianella, they have hired volunteers from various sources such as AmeriCorps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and Catholic Volunteer Network, and the majority of Casa’s staff is typically made up of these types of volunteers. The employment model Casa uses is one in which every staff member starts as a full-time volunteer for a year, so salaried positions are saved for those who have worked there multiple years. Jennifer says that “this has worked well for us because the volunteers, who are recent college graduates, are smart and idealist and they learn fast.”
There are many benefits to hiring a volunteer through a volunteer program like these. If your organization is unable to hire a full-time employee, partnering with these volunteer organizations is an excellent way for non-profits to increase their work capacity without a significant increase in expenses as well. Hiring a volunteer typically will cost an organization anywhere from $10,000 to $18,000, but some volunteer organizations place their fees on a sliding scale, which means that having a volunteer could cost even less.
However, a disadvantage to staffing your organization with volunteers is that each year, you must deal with a great deal of turnover among your employees. In addition, the increasing complexity of cases and issues dealt with in the immigration field have created a steep learning curve to those who are new to the field. Despite this, Jennifer says, “what we lose in stability we gain in youthful energy, and that young, kind, idealistic presence is a big source of our success.”
Hiring volunteers with programs like these gives you the opportunity to share the talents and experience that comprise your organization with someone who may be newer to your field. A unique quality shared by many of these programs is that they give the opportunity for a stronger supervisory/mentor relationship between supervisor and volunteer than is typical in a boss/employee relationship. Many recent college graduates participate in these volunteer programs to use their year as a year of discernment, attempting to find the best fit for them in terms of future careers. As such, the volunteer should not be simply treated as an intern, but should be fully integrated into your organization. Jennifer says that volunteering at Casa Marianella is so well-liked “because we give them so much responsibility. We are horizontal in our structure and the new volunteers have a voice in how we do things.”
Another aspect of most of the faith-based programs is a strong focus on creating an intentional community among program volunteers in each city, often centered around spirituality and simplicity. That being said, these volunteers typically should not be expected to work more than 40 hours per week in their placements, as there are often other facets of their volunteer programs they are required to focus on as well. Although these volunteer program requirements should not affect your volunteer’s work too significantly, organizations must be willing to work with the volunteer programs in allowing the volunteer to complete all of his or her requirements outside of the work place.
Partnering with volunteer programs can add great value to your organization’s workforce and allow for more important work to be done in the immigration field. Although many of these volunteer programs are very similar, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Please use this resource we have created to begin thinking about what programs best fit your organization’s structure and needs, and feel free to ask if you have any questions. Application deadlines for many of the programs are approaching quickly, so do not delay!
This month we would like to highlight the work of Harvey H. Howell, member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) organization. With PDA, he has facilitated valuable collaborations with the greater network of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOADs, on both a state level and a national level. Most recently he and PDA have been facilitating a response to the “border crisis,” and our network had the opportunity to meet with him and other members of the PDA network at the L4 conference.
A lifetime resident of San Antonio, Texas, Harvey was deeply affected by Hurricane Katrina, and was inspired by the spontaneous rising of people who wanted to help the victims of the hurricane. However, he also saw chaos and disorganization. Through the disorder, he envisioned great opportunity to better utilize the skills and enthusiasm of the people who wanted to help; better organization and training was needed to do their work in a more efficient and productive manner. In 2006 he joined the National Response Team of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and since then has made over 100 deployments to over 25 states. In these deployments he has provided training in disaster preparation and response, and assisted communities in organizing for long term recovery in the aftermath of major disasters.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is far from being alone in its work, however. It has been very active in Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster groups at multiple levels. The National VOAD organization was established in 1970 in response to Hurricane Camille to address deficiencies in the response to the disaster, including insufficient training, unnecessary duplication, and the lack of a coordination mechanism. Under the umbrella of NVOAD, there are 55 state and territory VOADs, several hundred local VOADs, emergency management partners, and private sector partners. Both National and locally-based VOADs conduct post-disaster conference calls to reflect and build off of previous experiences, enabling organizations to create collaborative best practices in order to tailor future disaster responses.
The San Antonio VOAD, which Harvey has been involved with for eight years, has already led the way in convening with organizations with immigration expertise, including ATJ partner RAICES. Harvey, Pastor Kelly Allen, and Jonathan Ryan have lead a series of meetings that have exchanged information about the needs, particularly for unaccompanied children, and identified ways to bring the VOAD’s expertise to the growing needs for migrant children and families. These organizations have expertise in mobilizing volunteers, community organizing, developing case management systems and providing emergency housing to disaster victims, expertise that could benefit the work of many of LIRS’ partners.
Additionally, the San Antonio VOAD has organized four specific work groups that focus on different aspects of disaster response related to immigration. There is an advocacy group, which is working on scheduling meetings with Texas government leaders to discuss immigration issues. An education focus group is working with schools to identify areas that are most impacted by immigration and most need help and support. Thirdly, they have formed a visitation group, which will visit the Karnes Detention Center to provide friendship and conversation to detainees, and hospitality support to legal service providers. Lastly, a community integration group has been working to identify ways to encourage apprenticeship and mentoring to immigrants who have been released from detention. Further, the VOAD is working to produce a housing model called Welcome Homes that will provide an alternative to detention.
Outside of his extensive work in disaster response, Harvey owns and operates a small oil and gas exploration company, which allows for great flexibility in his ability to volunteer when necessary. In explaining how his faith influences the work he does, Harvey says, “My faith drives everything I do, including the work through PDA. In my Reformed Faith tradition, I affirm the priesthood of believers; and I believe every good thing that comes from ‘my’ work, I attribute not to my own initiative, but rather from God, in the love of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
ATJ Net Database Training: Social Service Providers
ATJ Network call: Thursday, October 2nd from 2:00pm-3:00pm EST
Who is the Community Support Network?
In partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) LIRS launched the Community Support Network in 2012, a national service model to examine the efficiency of community-based services as an alternative to immigration detention. This initiative inspires volunteers and funds non-profit service agencies to offer a continuum of care that facilitates immigrants’ release from detention, immediate support and stabilization services, torture and trauma rehabilitation, and eventually long term integration. In 2012, the Community Support Network served approximately 85 people post-release and brought together over 80 practitioners for a conference about alternatives to current enforcement practices.