Tuesday, 16 February 2010

OutReach - Being a Volunteer. Problems.

We're really enjoying being part of the OutReach programme/team. Every week we do a couple of hours on tuesday and a couple on friday, walking the city to socialize with the vendors and check that they're selling correctly.
We've been doing it since the beginning of December and have just got to know most of the everyday vendors. There's been a couple of OutReaches that we've done when somebody else from the team has already done one, only an hour earlier.
You do tend to then think, is it constructive me doing another one only an hour later, will much be different? Or are we reducing the vendors selling time by getting them to sign the sheet again only an hour later?

When we went round on tuesday, it just happened that a girl called Frankie had head out about 30 mins before us, so we were practically following her. The first two vendors we saw got a bit pissed off about us being out again, they are used to 2 outreaches a day am/pm at the most maybe none somedays. and so felt that it was wrong for us to be out again.

Some vendors told us we were surely wasting our time. Obviously we really enjoying doing the work and helping in the community so we just shook that comment off. It was easy to kind of see their point though. One talked of how they used to have people they can talk to back at the office but not anymore, couldnt we be doing something that.
With a bad start, we rang the office and relayed the situaiton, Pat just said to try and get them to sign, but I think she could tell we felt a little uncomfortable with the situation, she then told us to just walk round and observe all the vendors. Also she told us about specific things to look out for and specific vendors.

We began to observe and write about what we were seeing. It was pretty horrible though, it was hard to observe without feeling like we were spying and snitching, it just didn't feel right, hiding ourselves. It also made us think about or position and how we see ourselves with-in the group. It's not about trying to be their friend as such.

But when we arrived back at the office we had good talk-meeting with pat and another outreach worker called Frankie. It's good to be able to have little meetings now and then, this keeps us all in good communication with one another, helps put into play vendors worries/frustrations and we get to know the vendors better.
Pat said that it was good we went out again, you gain an awful lot, because the vendors don't expect you too be out. We did gain a lot from the observations, but at the same time it didn't feel right. Maybe this is something we just have to get used to?
It's taught me a lot about volunteering and how sometimes you can't be yourself in situations, this has been a massive lesson in any volunteering I do in the near or distant future.
I know how important it is to understand your group fully and this will hopefully fare me well for the future.

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