Friday, January 11, 2008

Orientation, Over

Well, AmeriCorps Orientation #1 of 2008, the one for our first batch of full-time members, ended Friday afternoon. It seemed like it went well. We learned from last year and put significant energy and time into making a better orientation experience for folks. We'll see what the evaluations say.

This year, we were lucky to have Megan Latimer from the Atlanta Office come down to talk about the "Hands On" model. We talk about that often around here - it's the model we use to ensure that volunteers: 1) have a great experience, 2) are used to the utmost of the abilities, and 3) are hooked into coming back and bringing a friend.

Megan discussed some of the sociological, psychological, and philosophical underpinnings for the way Hands On engages volunteers. At the most basic level, the "Hands On" model of volunteer engagement is a form of asset-based community development. Rather than focusing on needs and inadvertently setting up cycles of dependence, Hands On looks to help the community determine what it wants to do (a vision) and helps create the pathways to acheive those goals. We become catalysts for change.

That's heady stuff, I know, but I was talking with Dave (yes, the Dog :) about the session. he said he learned so much and was ready to start implementing some of what he learned the next time he was on the job site. It's a pretty powerful endorsement for the material, but also the presenter, Megan.

Not only did people learn about the model, but they got to see it in action when they went for their half-day service projects. That was another of Dave's comments. He learned about how Hands On creates volunteer service opportunities and then saw it in action when he arrived at the work site and Eddie (our Construction Manager) immediately provided an orientation to the job, talked about the home owner, and provided the context for the home they were about to work on.

Nelson, K.C., and Crew on Lee St.

Everyone did a great job with orientation! Caitlin, Sheli, and Sara spent a considerable amount of time incorporating what we all learned from last year, continueing to build a strong program. The AmeriCorps members each seemed to learn something, which is always a bonus. I know I'm excited about the team that has been assembled and all that we are poised to accomplish this year.

A/C Orientation on 11 Jan 08

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