Wednesday, April 02, 2008

By request - getting started...

A certain SagaciousHillbilly raised the question of how people can get started with a volunteer program like my voter education classes.

Great question!

People can always volunteer through an organization and for lots of folks that’s the best way to rock the volunteer thang. Mentor programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters are a great resource because they match people with youth in need of a volunteer. I also love Habitat for Humanity because their volunteer events are something a group of friends or co-workers can do together.

My voter education classes evolved over time. I randomly asked the class if they were registered to vote and several of the students rolled their eyes. When I asked what was up with that shit they said that voting was stupid because the candidate they voted for never won (note – they later admitted to having only voted once.). Further quizzing unearthed a serious lack of knowledge regarding how politics impacts our daily lives.

A bitch was disturbed and then my ass got motivated. My Voter Education class is the result of learning a true thing about voter motivation – if a voter doesn’t know what a State Rep. does they don’t have an incentive to make sure the right person holds that office. In short, registration alone isn’t enough…an educated voter is a lifelong voter.

My classes begin with a United States Citizenship prep test, which few students usually pass (wince). Then we tackle government, policy, who votes on what and why and how to gather information on pending legislation. My students are encouraged to ask questions of those in power…to challenge our law maker’s affection for pork and dislike of oversight. By the time we are finished my classes students can pass the citizenship test and are filled with vote-based bitchitude!

They know why they are voting not just that they should vote.

Anyhoo, the best programs are developed around a need. Find that need in your community that speaks to you and then reach out to people and resources to problem solve through your volunteer work.

Go forth, get your volunteer on and be sure to let a bitch know all about it!

2 comments:

WNG said...

Thank You for posting that! People don't seem to realize how easy it can be to get involved! Here's some more:
You can always call your City Hall to get a list of non-profit groups in your area or google volunteer and your city/town to come up with some ideas. You can ask a local school principal what groups work with students in your area or go to your local children's hospital. There are also usually message boards up at most libraries with information.
The knowledge you need is all around you once you find the will inside.

Betsy said...

Doing community service/activism is so important. Especially if one approaches it in the spirit of listening and learning. I spent a year working as an intern at a homeless shelter (room, board, and $1.85/hour in 2002-2003 - not volunteer work, but close). It was amazing, and although I don't think I could do it forever, I miss it a lot now.
In addition to what's already been said, many newspapers have a section once a week listing orgs that are requesting volunteers.