Volunteering 101

We all have the ability to help. I’ve realized that Lori’s Hands volunteers have so much to offer the clients they visit. They can bring energy and warmth into the lives of older adults and people with chronic illnesses.  Students have skills and abilities that they can use to assist individuals with essential tasks that they would otherwise be unable to do for themselves. This semester, we have many new volunteers, so I thought I would share some thoughts on how to become the best volunteer possible in your new role with Lori's Hands! For our current volunteers, there are always ways that we can become more effective helpers! What tips do YOU have for our new volunteers? What do you do that makes you an effective member of the Lori's Hands team for our clients? On Empathy Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is one of the most important characteristics of a volunteer. Many Lori’s Hands may be in a state of vulnerability due to their illnesses. Volunteers must be understanding and caring. We must be able to place ourselves in the shoes of these individuals and think about what type of support they might need. When clients feel that we care and are working to understand their unique situations, they are more likely to open up and connect with us.

On Self-awareness When we are volunteering, we will often encounter individuals who are different from ourselves. They may live differently than we do and they may have different views. When working with people, we need to be aware of our perceptions and how they may affect our ability to help. We must be understanding and accepting towards others. If we notice our views getting in the way of our effectiveness, we should take a step back and reevaluate our approach.   On Active Listening In order to help others, we need to listen to them and truly hear what they are saying. Lori’s Hands volunteers may need to ask pertinent questions to their clients in order to understand what they really need. At times, individuals may not be open about their wants and needs. They may feel uncomfortable asking for help and may not realize that our volunteers are more than happy to be of use.  Active listening can help to open doors to discover valuable details about what our clients really need. On the Unsaid Lori’s Hands volunteers will be more effective if they not only listen to their clients, but also read between the lines. Effective helpers are sensitive to a client’s body language, social cues, and patterns of behavior. Through being observant of these things, we can better interpret the thoughts and feelings behind them. This may help us to identify changes in our clients and monitor their status throughout the time we are volunteering.

Written by: Noelle Menchini

Noelle is a senior Human Services major, Disabilities Studies minor at the University of Delaware. She has been involved in Lori’s Hands since her sophomore year and has scheduled for two of our clients. She is now the Lori's Hands at UD Communications Chair for the 2014-2015 year. Noelle says that Lori’s Hands has taught her not to underestimate the power that a small act of kindness can have for an individual.