Volunteerism, the Gateway to a Better Community

by   |   Thu, Apr 2nd, 2015

As TuscBDD begins to transform its adult services from a facility-based to community-based model, volunteerism plays a key role. Volunteerism in this context has two aspects; 1) attracting volunteers to share interests, skills and experiences with the people TuscBDD serves, and 2) encouraging the people we serve to become volunteers.

Attracting volunteers: TuscBDD is conducting a comprehensive interest survey of the people we serve at the workshop. A representative sample of surveys has been completed and we now have a more complete picture of their interest areas. We know that individuals are attracted to the performing arts including music, singing, acting, attending concerts, and learning to play musical instruments, to name just a few. We will be connecting with KSU performing arts center to take advantage of the programs offered at this fantastic facility. We also seek volunteers to help individuals, for example, create short films using iPads, or provide support and guidance as they write and perform plays on a regular basis. Another interest area is health, exercise and nutrition including learning about cooking, gardening, making healthy, nutritious food choices, walking, bike riding and swimming.

Becoming volunteers: Volunteering has a number of benefits for the people we serve. One benefit is the opportunity to do things they may not have done before. This is important not only from a life enrichment perspective, but also from the standpoint of learning about the world of work. One of the difficulties that we face when attempting to gather interest information on individuals with developmental disabilities in many cases is their relatively limited life experiences compared to their non-disabled peers. It is hard to express what one likes and doesn't like when he or she hasn't had a wide range of experiences. Volunteering broadens experiences and helps people make real, informed choices about where they want to go with their lives. Another benefit of volunteering is discovering the value of giving back to the community. So often, people with disabilties are on the receiving end of services. In fact, a common descriptive term in the DD world for the people we serve is "consumer". Internalizing this label may have an unintended negative effect on individuals if they adopt the self-concept of being simply a recipient of services with nothing to offer. Volunteering shatters this myth by demonstrating that people with disabilities do indeed have much to give. This of course has positive implications for how they are viewed by the community at large, but more importantly, for how they view themselves.

A benefit of both volunteering and interacting with volunteers is community integration. Either aspect of volunteering builds a natural pathway to interaction with and inclusion in the community. Integration is a critical element of the transformation process we are going through at TuscBDD. Only through true community integration and inclusion can individuals with developmental disabilities have truly rich lives in terms of work, recreation, and personal growth and development.

Thu, Apr 2nd, 2015