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SPECIAL EDITION: Volunteer Management Advice & Tips

Below are links and articles provided to help volunteer managers with disaster recovery efforts from Hurrican Katrina. Please email us at: editor@volunteertoday.com if you have additional information or links that you would like to share with your professional counterparts around the country. We will post them as we receive them.

Return to Katrina Resources page for more links to information

Click here to view a very informative article: Working With Disaster Response Volunteers

Authored and submitted by: Linda Graff in Ontario, Canada 9/9/05

Protecting Your Not-for-Profit's Records from Disasters

As we know, there is little we can do to control a natural disaster, but there are some things groups can do to make sure their vital records are retained. For example, all groups should have back-up discs of their vital records that are kept at a place other than the office and updated at least monthly. A safe deposit box is a good idea.

Financial records can be restored by your bank. Banks are required to keep a backup.

Recovering from disaster:

Once the initial panic is over, consult with a small group of board members and staff and evaluate your situation: what is it essential that you must try to find? Would board members have copies of these items? Are they on CD? Where?

When it's safe to return to the office, make an inventory of what is there. Put the "essential" things aside and then see what can be done to restore them in order of priority. Http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/conservation/emergency.html is an excellent site that tells you how to preserve papers and photographs and lists other helpful websites.

When you meet with your group, discuss what your organization should do in its altered state to fulfill its mission. Decide what is most important, and do that as well as you can. This may well be the time to join with another similar agency or agencies to meet the needs in the community.

Submitted by: Jeanne Bradner 9/20/05

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Tips From a Survivor of Hurricane Andrew
  • Make yourself familiar with the stages of grief. The survivors you work with will be suffering through one of these stages, regardless of the extent of their loss – even if that loss doesn't include a loved one and their dwelling damage is minimal. The most commonly recognized stages are: denial; anger; bargaining; depression; acceptance. Not everyone goes through each stage. Not every stage is the same duration. The three stages from Dr. Roberta Temes book Living With An Empty Chair – A Guide Through Grief more closely mirror those I went through – numbness; disorganization; reorganization. Actually, they describe my life for the six months afterwards!
  • Do not say "I've been there" or "I know what you're feeling" because even if you've had a similar experience, you don't – not exactly.
  • Do not attempt to provide counseling unless 1) you're qualified to do so; and 2) you're specifically asked. I knew I was firmly in the anger stage of my loss when, on the first day we were allowed to assess our home damage, the military – trying to be proactive and "gather data" -- sent psychologists door-to-door to ask, "how are you doing?" My response started something like, "how the %#@+* do you thinking, I'm doing, standing in 4" of mud and water trying to save my property!?" Never saw that psychologist again. Most survivors recover on their own, given time – still the best healer.
  • The people you're helping may not know what to ask for because they're so overwhelmed. Sometimes it's better to just "do" for someone, if you see a glaring need.
  • Refrain from making comments about the adequacy of the recovery process. Those judgments are for survivors to make.
  • Leave the makeup, good clothes and jewelry at home, unless you're in a more formal office setting. This is a time for work clothes. I would pack rubber gloves and boots – or, at a minimum, cheap-cheap-cheap tennis shoes that I could just toss after I'm done mucking through the muck. If your organization has a tee or golf shirt with it's logo on it, wear that. Wear a nametag.
  • If your hair is long and difficult to keep/style, cut it or tie it up – seriously. Most women can't stand to have unruly, dirty hair, and your resources may be limited. It's hot, humid, and sticky wherever you're going in the South this time of year.
  • Get a tetanus shot.
  • Before you leave try to find out what, if any, cell phone service works in the area you're going to. Our location in California is peculiar in that only one cell phone service works reliably. You can always rent the appropriate cell phone prior to departing your home location.
  • Buy a phone card and keep it in your wallet. Strangely enough, following Hurricane Andrew, some of our pay phones on base worked, even though the phone lines were down.
  • Put everything in plastic bags.
  • Leave everything that is non-essential at home. Take just one credit or debit card. Make copies of everything – driver's license, credit card – and leave them at home. Take cash in small bills and put it in different locations in your luggage, etc. The most useful way to keep essentials like credit card, driver's license, cash on you will be in a plastic retractable badge holder that you can stuff in the front of your shirt.
  • Take small gifts of candy, toys along to keep in your pockets and hand out to kids. You may find a local agency/store more than happy to provide you with Pez candy containers, gum, balloons, lifesavers.

Submitted by: Judy Morrow in California 9/9/05

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Global Facilitator Service Corps

The situation on the Gulf Coast after hurricane Katrina is, in most part, still in the critical and survival stage. In the next days and weeks, however, the emergent psychosocial needs of the survivors will begin to appear and the challenge to help them is enormous. Although FEMA and many other organizations will have Grief Management and Critical Incident Debriefing teams working in the area, they will not come close to meeting all the needs. The Global Facilitator Service Corps is ready to support meeting these needs.

Traditionally, facilitation has not been considered as a tool in disaster intervention. Nonetheless, several facilitation processes for use in grief management workshops and for social reorganization after a disaster have been developed and successfully used in many countries. Publications supporting these processes have been translated into several other languages.

Through the development and support of local networks of volunteer facilitators worldwide, Global Facilitator Service Corps (GFSC) helps build the capacity of communities to work through their challenges and create sustainable solutions. GFSC believes that people and communities are capable of self-determination and that facilitation is an effective catalyst to build, rebuild and sustain self-reliant communities. By sharing knowledge, experience, and caring, GFSC enables communities and the institutions that serve them, to identify and achieve their goals.

GFSC is coordinating several efforts to use its Field Volunteers to train, prepare and mentor other facilitators, professionals and caregivers in Disaster Intervention Facilitation (DIF):

Larry and Bego Meeker (atconcepts@aol.com & mbrmeeker@atctraining.com), with a group of other area GFSC volunteers, are spearheading the efforts in Texas with local groups and organizations to offer DIF Workshops in different localities.

GFSC has many materials on Grief Management, Critical Incident Management and Caring for the Caregiver. They can all be downloaded at: http://www.globalfacilitators.org/VirtLib.htm. GFSC has a dozen GFSC Virtual Mentors that are available 24/7 to support local professionals using its new Hot Conference audio-video-desktop virtual conferencing platform that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, even a slow dialup. GFSC is in contact with other facilitator organizations such as the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) to offer support to their groups as needed.

If you are a professional facilitator, you can enter the GFSC Mentored Pathways Field Volunteer program to prepare yourself for future volunteer opportunities. For more information, go to: http://globalfacilitators.org/VolunFormEnEs.htm.

Submitted 9/7/05

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USC School of Law Helps Students

First, we are accepting transfer students from Tulane and Loyola Law School. The word is "get here" and we will work out the details of tuition, courses, credit, housing, etc. A constant stream of emails from alumni and students offering all kinds of help is heartwarming. Emory Law School set up a web link as a "virtual Tulane Law School" to allow the Dean to communicate with students, faculty and the law school family at large.

Second, I sent a letter to the entire Law School community. Just like lack of communication seems to be the greatest barrier in the Gulf region, so is lack of information to those who want to help. The letter reminds the students that they may not have much money to donate but the cumulative effect of $10 bills from many people does make a difference.

It also reminds the that the recovery is a long-term process. Patience is a virtue and being tested today. Just knowing that someone is in touch with those who are providing direct aid is a comfort. Knowing that when a finite need is identified, they will be asked to meet that need is a comfort. Asking the students to put the need to help to work locally is important to their own wellbeing. Thre are national organizations charged with providing basic needs, food, water, shelter and clothing. Sending unsolicited goods will only clog up the system. We learned from Hurricane Hugo that after the media leaves and things "look" normal is when long-term needs arrive and where we can make a real impact.

The key, let your volunteers know that someone is in charge and will ask for their help when a realistic opportunity arrives.

Submitted by: Pam Robinson 9/2/05

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Spontaneous Volunteers

Some cities are creating call centers for families to check on missing or displaced relatives. Check with local Volunteer Center, FEMA, Red Cross or United Way to see if they need volunteers to answer phones.

Faith based groups such as Catholic Charities are organizing long term shelters in cities throughout the country to house people displaced by the hurricane. Check with local branches of these group to see how you can help with food, supplies and other assistance.

The Times-Picayune website at http://www.nola.com/ has a lisitng of volunteer opportunties from around the country. Many ways you can reach out and assist with the relief effort.

Submitted by: Mary V. Merrill in Ohio 9/5/05

Spontaneous Volunteers 2

"Anyone who self-responded was not being put to work. The military was worried about having more people in the city. They want to limit it to the professionals," said Kevin Southerland, a captain with Orange Fire Department in Orange County, CA, a member of one of eight 14-member water rescue teams sent to New Orleans at FEMA's request.

Even skilled volunteers with the best intentions can be more trouble than help if they arrive needing food, shelter or fuel, some say.

This appeared in the Guardian, but is authored by AP Press writer Martha Mendoza – 9/6/05 and submitted by Mary Merrill in Ohio.

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CSU University System Opens Doors to Katrina Students

With thousands of students affected by Hurricane Katrina forced to improvise on their fall-semester plans, many are inquiring about taking classes elsewhere. CSU Monterey Bay, located on California's Central Coast 2 hours south of San Francisco, is ready to assist those students.

"Our campus is joining a number of the CSUs in opening registration for the fall semester for students affected by Hurricane Katrina. Information is being provided to the media and through a number of higher education forums to those who may need this opportunity," said Interim President Diane Cordero de Noriega.

"Our faculty and staff have come together and agreed to stretch their capacity to assist these students. I am not only proud to be part of a system that cares about serving students and their families, I greatly admire our own CSUMB family for stepping forward."

Says Dennis Geyer, director of Admissions and Records, "We will assist students on a case-by-case basis. We will take applications over the phone and help these students through every step of the process."

September 19, 2005is the last day to apply. Prospective students can call (831) 582-3580 or e-mail: admissions@csumb.edu. For more information, contact Arlene Krebs, Director, Wireless Education & Technology Center, CSU Monterey Bay at: 831-582-5025.

Submitted by: Jayne Cravens in Germany

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When it Happens They Will Come!

Then a community experiences a major disaster the media coverage brings it into our homes and the natural response is to feel compelled to help. Major disaster relief organizations have extensive training programs to help disaster volunteers be prepared physically and psychologically for what they will be doing. Most major relief organizations are reluctant to allow spontaneous, inexperienced volunteers to help with response and recovery operations. Their reluctance is based on concern for the safety of the victims as well as the safety of the volunteers. This can be frustrating for the person who wants to help as they watch events unfold, only to be rejected when calling to offer assistance.

Sometimes the best way to help is to volunteer for the disaster agencies in your home city. Contact the local Red Cross office and see if they need help answering phones, packing supplies or staffing the office. This can free trained staff to work on disaster relief issues. Managers of volunteers, skilled at interview and referral techniques can be helpful in local call centers, talking with spontaneous volunteers, taking information and explaining valuable ways they can help the relief effort. Contact the local Red Cross, United Way, the Volunteer Center or FEMA and ask how to help locally. One of the best thing spontaneous volunteers can do is raise money. Most Red Cross chapters are willing to give literature or signs to help with a fund raising event and truly appreciate the assistance. The effects of a major disaster continue long after the television coverage ends, and raising money for the long-term relief effort can be a valuable activity. The Red Cross is still working with victims of 9/11. During the emergency most personnel are too busy with relief efforts to devote staff time to fund raising events.

Be very careful about just showing up and expecting to help. Onsite personnel may be stressed, tired and extremely busy. They will not have a lot of time for untrained volunteers. After Hurricane Hugo many people were killed using chain saws (falling limbs and live electrical wires) during the clean up efforts.

All spontaneous volunteers should connect with a relief organization before setting off and on arrival. Report for duty to the person or organization coordinating onsite volunteers. Volunteer Florida (2000) gives the following advice for spontaneous volunteers.

1. Conditions will be hard, hot, dangerous, and stressful.
2. Heavy boots, work gloves, a hat, sunscreen and appropriate tools are helpful.
3. Bring personal water containers and drink plenty of water while working.
4. Areas may be contaminated with bacteria from death and injuries. Wash thoroughly.
5. Encountering victims can cause stress, anxiety, fear, and other strong emotions. Feeling overwhelmed or depressed by the scale of the disaster can be difficult to deal with. Every small action is a valuable contribution to the overall effort.
6. Follow all instructions and attend debriefing sessions.

Reference: Volunteer Florida (2000). Unaffiliated Volunteers in Response and Recovery. Tallahassee, FL: Volunteer Florida.
Submitted by: Mary Merrill in Ohio

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