The Spring Institute empowers people and organizations to succeed across languages and cultures. Its Project SHINE helps immigrant and refugee elders navigate our health-care system and engages them in preventative health activities in their communities.
NONPROFIT TALENT: International experience informs work with refugees
One of Spring Institute’s most effective volunteers, Manley Daniel, brought relevant work and life experience to its work with refugee families. His work as a Peace Corps volunteer, for Save the Children and the International Organization of Migrants gave him a deep understanding of other cultures and immigrant issues.
Program Coordinator Brandy Kramer noted, “Manley started a walking group to bring refugee/immigrant elders together with residents of other communities to get to know each other and for the health benefits of regular walking.”
NONPROFIT BENEFITS: Engaging the community and others
Brandy explained: “We had a tiny amount of money to start the walking program. Manley did a great job of recruiting the elders – in their communities, walking was required for survival, it wasn’t a leisure activity, so they didn’t jump at the idea initially. He also trained people to become walk leaders so the program would be sustainable. Manley went out and got donations for the program [water bottles and other small incentives] that made it appealing for people to try it out.”
The program has expanded organically as American-born community members have joined the walking group. Sometimes the walkers include doctors learning about refugee health, Denver locals curious about their new neighbors, city planners and others interested in getting more involved with the Institute’s work. “We had never thought of that additional benefit!” Brandy said.
ENCORE IMPACT: Connected and “gracious but tenacious”
Brandy also gave an enthusiastic endorsement of encore talent. “You’re doing your organization a disservice if you don’t think about boomers as a resource and invest time in recruiting them as skilled volunteers. They have great experience, knowledge and networks that will help you accomplish a lot more than you could without them.”
Boomers bring many strengths to volunteer work, she says, including their ability to focus on the important things and to create sustainable programs. Encore volunteers meet people where they are rather than imposing their own values. They have extensive networks, and when they’re passionate about the work, they reach into their networks to tap additional resources. “Boomers are tenacious but gracious,” she added. “They won’t just take ‘no’ for an answer, they’ll keep trying to find an opening.”
“We pair boomers with third-year medical students in one of our programs. When the boomers share medical experiences from their own lives, the students understand the issues from a personal perspective, not just a classroom perspective,” Brandy said.
VOLUNTEER MANAGEMENT: Flexibility is key
Everyone wants flexibility in volunteer engagements, Brandy notes; “boomers are very professional about letting us know if they have a conflict, because they know I’m depending on them.”
The organization also builds in flexibility in shaping some roles. For instance, a prospective volunteer interviewed for a position involving caregivers, kids and public health. But she wanted to focus on kids and was less interested in health issues. “We found a role that focuses on kids with a public health dimension, and she’s been volunteering for us for five years.”