Thursday, August 16, 2007

Volunteers: Part 1

“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” Kofi Annan (UN Secretary-General 1997-2007).

“Approach volunteers with caution—there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Gabrielle Sanders (my better half 2004 - ?).

With her experience of building her turf-roofed, timber-framed eco-house as one of nine in a cooperative housing scheme—a magnet for eco-volunteers—Gabrielle is well placed to possess a valid opinion on the relative benefits of volunteers. So it was somewhat ironic that she was the more enthusiastic when we recently received an offer of help (via this blog) from a permaculturally-interested university student cycling through France on her summer holidays.

I warmed to the idea and we started a list of the things she could help us with. The first list might have got us in trouble, considering slavery was abolished in 1833. At the end, though, we had a balanced list of interesting things to do and were relishing the extra pair of hands. So, as the days passed, we became ever more concerned and eventually fired off an email to ask her when she was coming. Very apologetic she was but she’d run out of time and forgot to tell us. Her name was mud, into which she’d dragged all her volunteering colleagues with her: I told you so!

In fairness, Emily would win an award for the politeness and sorry-ness of her apology, thus diffusing any residual bad-feeling and she offered the possibility of a volunteering-cycling friend who’d also be interested in coming. Stop Press—we’ve had an email from her friend, Sam, and we’re going to say yes. So, watch this space (blog) for whether we’re going Kofi or Gabrielle on our view of volunteers (no pressure, Sam!)