28Jul

Matter – A Reflection on Volunteering

Motivation and matter: topics that drive me. (I’ve written about Heart and Fractual Matter before.) At Qatar Computing Research Institute, I’m creating programs to make it easier for MENA, GCC and Qatari folks to get involved in Digital Volunteering. The World Humanitarian Youth Summit is coming to Doha, so opportunity is knocking. I’ve also been thinking more about sustainable care-taking of “matter-ness” within the digital communities.

Volunteer motivation reasons frequently narrow down to “Matter” or “Inspired” or “Do Something” or “Knowing I can do something“. Today I got the “matter shivers” again. Tracy Glenn of SIDRA spoke at the Humanitarians of SIDRA event. Sidra is a Doha-based Medical and Research Center.

humanitarians of sidra

Tracy volunteered as a nurse in a Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) in Rwanda and Palestine. During her time, she assessed and made recommendations to improve processes in the PACU. Her talk incorporated stories and photos from her experience in Jenin (Palestine) with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Helping the vulnerable and train local capacity is a gift. Her honest integrity showed in every sentence and photo. By telling little snippets of life in the medical facility, she gave us a window in the healthcare needs in Jenin and the lives of the people she served. Listening to Tracy reminded me of all the other humanitarians in my life who have shared such heartfelt inspiration to volunteer with their skills. I hope that you get hear all their stories more. Healthcare professionals truly have this hardwired in their processes and networks. What can we learn from them? I certainly learned today from Tracy. (Thank you).

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We’re all here coz we care

Jemilah Mahmoud on WHSummit (July 28, 2015)

Returning to my desk, I started to reflect on how to sustain motivation in a healthy way. As Digital Humanitarians, we go through phases of on/off. With every large response, I am seeing the wear on digital volunteers. Some of the people who gave their digital skills during the Haiti or Christchurch response contacted me just after the Nepal Earthquake and said sorry that they took a break but were ready to do something. Warmly I told each person how happy I was to hear from them.

We are so connected but disconnected some times in how we talk about volunteering. Every interaction is a gift. The human-ness of giving and volunteering is beautiful. We need to keep walking forward in cycles of sustainable patterns. And, when I say sustainable patterns, I mean – our own pace, taking care of ourselves, those we love and those who are allies. The saturation of energy during a response often takes weeks to months to recoup the cicada rhythms of spirit. Each digital organization needs this in their fabric.

The World Humanitarian Summit tweets via #ReShapeAid are a daily read for me. I try to read all the reports. And, I have had the pleasure to review and add some comments on how digital training needs to be part of the youth engagement strategy. But as we build programs and software to really ACTION the feedback of #ReShapeAid, how can we keep that pure sense of “motivation” and “matter” without burning out people. The intense purpose needs sunshine and a hug. I’m not trying to make light of the real focus we need to have. But with joy, the spaces (online and offline) that we create need to have human check-ins and keep humanity. This means inclusive, respectful, locally driven and with a spirit of “Matter” that does not crush the spirit or the action required. I think that digital spaces need to #Reshape too.

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Dr. Mahmoud’s comment above on the same day as Tracy’s talk got me thinking. There are videos, photos and audio clips all around the internet. Many organizations have this as part of their use case narrative. But, what if there was a massive aggregator of videos, audio and photos on Why Humanitarian Volunteering Matters? Maybe we should start creating these items in all our digital spaces to honour the upcoming
World Humanitarian Day on August 19th this year.

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