Volunteering during a Public Health Crisis

  • March 24, 2020

    Posted by: Dawn Bourbonnais

    Volunteer engagement, within the context of a public health crisis, raises many questions as organizations assess the evolving risks and needs in our communities. From healthcare centres to long-term care homes, shelters to food banks, Manitoba's non-profits and charities are on the frontlines supporting and serving communities during this unpredictable and tumultuous time of COVID-19.

    We also know this is a challenging time in terms of managing our human resources - staff and volunteers, and ensuring critical services are still offered to those who need them. During a state of emergency, there is an increase in both need and demand, and for many of us volunteering is a way we can contribute and help during this pandemic.

    Volunteer Manitoba works with hundreds of non-profits, charities, special events and community groups across Manitoba to support and assist with recruitment, retention and recognition of volunteers. To help you identify where to volunteer your time, and how to keep yourself, your community and organizations safe, we have pulled together 3 options for Manitobans to get involved and give their time.

    #1 - Volunteer Programs

    A volunteer program is an important extension of every non-profit organization, charity, and healthcare centre because volunteers are intrinsic to the ongoing delivery of programs and services in our communities.

    Volunteer programs have dedicated staff who manage, supervise and support the volunteer team as they work together to achieve the organization's mandate. Volunteer Programs follow the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement, and utilize the Screening Handbook, to ensure that people's skills are matched to the work being done, that the quality and safety of programs and services are maintained and improved (where needed), and that the risks and liabilities for people and organizations are reduced.

    Many volunteer programs in Manitoba have suspended all activities for the time being. We recommend reaching out to the organization directly to learn if they require support at this time.

    We will continue to support our non-profit and community partners who are reliant on volunteers to deliver services and needs to the communities they serve. We will highlight any urgent need for volunteer support during the COVID-19 pandemic on our website and via our social media platforms.

    You can also contact us directly for a list of organizations currently needing volunteer support - email kamillah.elgiadaa@volunteermanitoba.ca for more information.

    #2 Community-Led Volunteering

    Community-Led volunteering is a grassroots effort, where people within a community come together to serve a cause or address a need. Communities will often come together to fundraise for a cause, celebrate a milestone, or if there is a state-of-emergency that requires everyone to get involved.

    Community-Led volunteers still follow a process, and a reporting structure is in place, but the process for achieving the shared goal may be less formal than in a volunteer program.

    To learn more about community-led volunteering in your region, we recommend connecting with your local municipality.

    #3 Informal Volunteering

    Most informal volunteering is reciprocal, when people take turns helping each other in a way that is not coordinated by an organization. It's a very common way for people to help out, and over 80% of the population does it.

    What does it look like? Informal volunteering is helping your neighbours, friends, family members and people you may know and trust. It happens in neighbourhoods, through faith-based activities, and in social groups.

    If you want to help out informally, please connect with your neighbours, friends and family via email, telephone or leave a note on their mailbox or door step.

    • Do not show up at someone's house unannounced. People may be anxious about making face-to-face contact right now, particularly if they have a medical condition, live alone, or are considered vulnerable.
    • Make arrangements that are mutually convenient, not just on your own schedule.

    If someone asks you to do something you cannot (or should not do), let them know that you cannot help. Suggest they contact us at info@volunteermanitoba.ca and we can help refer them to a volunteer program that may be able to help, or a non-profit service provider they can access.

    Remember to Stay Safe!

    Before you offer your time, please ask yourself "Am I well enough to volunteer?" and "Have I been in contact with someone who is unwell?" Your safety and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is the priority. If you are unwell or you have been in contact with someone who is unwell, DO NOT VOLUNTEER.

    Volunteer Manitoba shares the recommendations of the chief provincial public health officer and encourages all Manitobans to engage in good social distancing protocols, including practicing following the 3P's - protect yourself, protect your loved ones and protect your community. For more information visit www.manitoba.ca/covid19.


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