By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman
Volunteerism is at the heart of most rural Manitoba communities. Almost everything that happens in our communities does so thanks to the donation of time made by community members.
Across the region, volunteer organizations are doing lots of great things. Thinking about the activities, attractions and assets that define our communities, almost all have been done thanks, in large part, to volunteers. But in addition to those initiatives with which we are well acquainted, many organizations are working hard at projects we know nothing about.
The problem is that there is a general lack of communication between organizations. Most organizations work on their own projects, in their own areas, in their own silos, with very little cross over. Sure, parents involved in their children’s hockey organization might also be involved in the group that runs children’s soccer, but overall, there isn’t a lot of transfer between the chamber of commerce, sports organizations, cultural centres, agricultural societies and community foundations. Despite someone being heavily involved in one organization, it’s very possible for them to have no idea what another local organization does, even in a small community.
Neepawa, for example, isn’t a huge metropolitan area, yet there are over 75 different groups and organizations operating in the town. That means that each month, there are 75 or so different meetings and each year, all of these organizations hold an annual general meeting. No wonder no one knows the big picture, it’s impossible to see. It’s impossible for people to know what all organizations are doing.
We need these volunteer organizations and the work they do it vital, but it’s no good if we don’t know what other organizations are doing. And it’s worse if that lack of knowledge leads to the duplication of work or a missed opportunity to leverage or combine the work, knowledge or assets of different organizations for the betterment of the community.
The community of Treherne has found a solution to this challenge, they hold an annual Reporting Back to the Community event. This year’s event, held Feb. 9, included reports from the South Norfolk-Treherne Community Development Corporation, the Tiger Hills Community Foundation, the Treherne Chamber of Commerce, the Treherne Aquatic Centre, the Treherne Age Friendly Committee and the Treherne Kinsmen Club.
The event gave each organization a chance to inform the community, telling them about highlights from the last year, priorities for the new year, current activities, challenges and overall position. Events such as this not only educate the community in general, but also those involved in other organizations.
We have scarce volunteer resources and we need to utilize them to the best of our abilities. The best way for this to happen is for people to know what other organizations do and are doing. To know what needs there are and what solutions are in the works. By getting together to talk about their activities, organizations can put the pieces together to maximize the return to the community of those scarce volunteer resources.