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What volunteer work involves regular interaction with other volunteers?
May 9, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

What kinds of volunteer opportunities provide significant interaction with other volunteers? (And any suggestions for specific organizations in the DC area?)

I've held a number of different kinds of volunteer positions (ESL teaching/tutoring, tax prep volunteering, job search/resume assistance, tutoring kids, etc), and while I've enjoyed them, I've noticed that they've tended to involve little interaction with other volunteers. Ideally I'd like to find a new volunteer position that has more interaction with other volunteers and/or staff-- primarily as an opportunity for me to make new friends, although another bonus would be a volunteer coordinator (or someone else) with enough interaction with me that they could possibly serve as a job reference at some point.

I'm most interested in volunteer work that's somehow connected to social/economic justice, and/or things that involve empowering people or helping them to get past barriers in their lives-- so especially things like community organizing, community development, human rights, etc. But I'm open to suggestions for other kinds of volunteer work, particularly if you have particular recommendations about specific organizations/opportunities in the DC area.

(Yes, I've looked at Idealist.org. Nothing has turned up that seemed both appealling and a solid bet for significant inter-volunteer interaction. So I figured I'd see if folks here could help.)

So-- what kind of volunteer work have you done/do you know about that involves significant interaction with other volunteers/staff?
posted by EmilyClimbs to Human Relations (15 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you taken a look at One Brick?
posted by amarynth at 10:22 AM on May 9, 2011


Political involvement is good for this. So is Habitat for Humanity I believe.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:29 AM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


re: One Brick or similar groups, I'd prefer something where I'm doing steady volunteering with a single organization (and where I'm interacting with the same people on a regular basis, too.)

I should also add that for the friendship angle it doesn't have to be just other volunteers, I'd also definitely be interested in volunteer work that involves regular interaction with clients/etc as an opportunity to make friends with them-- a lot of what I've done so far has involved helping different people every week. I would prefer something with regular interaction with more than just one client/user, though. (And it would be nice if there was still a volunteer coordinator/etc who was connected enough to what I was doing to potentially serve as a job reference.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2011


I spent a lot of time talking to fellow volunteers when I was working as a workshare on a farm. A quick google brought up field to fork network, which works with kids, teaching agriculture and healthful eating. You would most likely be dealing with the same volunteers, the same administrators, and the same "clients" (I'm guessing they're working schools).
posted by Gilbert at 10:37 AM on May 9, 2011


A group of people meets every Wednesday in DC to send Books to Prisons. The interaction is mainly with the other volunteers, although you can write letters to the prisoners who request books. I believe there is someone there that comes every week and coordinates things.

The DC Employment Justice Center is a walk-in legal advice clinic that helps folks with their work-related legal problems. They train intake volunteers (no legal or other experience required, although speaking Spanish would be a plus). Someone from the organization trains and coordinates the volunteers. Probably most of the interaction on a typical day is with the clients, but I believe there is a chance to interact with other volunteers and work with the staff and advising attorneys.
posted by bbq_ribs at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2011


I worked on a suicide/crisis hotline and there was a great deal of interaction between volunteers and staff, especially because we had to do extensive training.
posted by sweetkid at 11:07 AM on May 9, 2011


WRT One Brick -- I'm on the OB management team, which means I do volunteer regularly for one organization, One Brick. Also, I get to know and see my fellow One Brick Management team members regularly and have developed good friendships this way. Also, here in the Bay Area we have several organizations that we volunteer with several times a month. So you can have a recurring committment if that's what you want.
posted by bananafish at 11:39 AM on May 9, 2011


This may be something you're totally not interested in, but I've done a lot of work with the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program and I suggest it whenever I get the chance! I've made a lot of good friends through it and you stay with pretty much the same people from week to week. It's a program for kids with disabilities to learn how to horseback ride. Their site is NVTRP.org and you can drop me a message if you are interested or have questions.
posted by brilliantine at 11:49 AM on May 9, 2011


I volunteer at NARA and while there's a long orientation (and you'll likely have to file for a security clearance), there's a large amount of interaction between volunteers on the project that I'm working on (Civil War Conservation Corps, prepping pension files for digitization). There's other volunteer projects too, although I don't know anything about them. Here's a link to a brief description of what volunteers do and the form to fill out for the DC location. You won't really find out what project to work on until they do a brief interview to figure out what you're interested in, but you might like one of the docent gigs.
posted by sperose at 12:09 PM on May 9, 2011


When I worked at a soup kitchen, I was on the Thursday crew, and every Thursday we would all come in and make a meal together. A lot of soup kitchens probably want a regular commitment and chopping vegetables together means you can do a fair bit of talking while working.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2011


I live in DC too and have been trying to figure out the exact same thing, so I'll be reading the answers to this question with interest! I recently started volunteering at a hostel in downtown DC. So far I've just been filling in when other volunteers haven't shown up, but the volunteer coordinator is working on placing me in a team that would be the same 3-4 volunteers making dinner for the hostel guests once a week (or maybe once every two weeks). It does seem that people on the same team have gotten to be pretty friendly with each other.

For regular interaction with people other than staff/volunteers, I'd highly recommend being a family mentor for the International Rescue Committee, which helps refugees integrate into their new homes in the US. As a family mentor, I used to visit my assigned refugee family on a weekly basis to help them with their English, show them around the neighborhood, and other day-to-day things. You wouldn't really be interacting with other volunteers, but it's a great chance to build a relationship with the family you're helping, and it's really rewarding. There's an IRC branch in Silver Spring that you could contact for more information. And feel free to Memail me if you have any questions!
posted by gg at 12:22 PM on May 9, 2011


I've always enjoyed Habitat for Humanity and Miriam's Kitchen.
posted by easily confused at 2:17 PM on May 9, 2011


Without knowing how old you are, I would suggest getting involved with the DC Young Professionals Kiwanis chapter. You get the variety of choosing whatever activities you want but you'll see the same people over and over at meetings, happy hours, and other events.
posted by kat518 at 4:56 PM on May 9, 2011


I volunteer regularly with Casey Trees, which plants trees all over the District, and have gotten quite friendly with a number of the other volunteers and some of the staff. Not to the extent we hang out independently, but enough that I can have good chats with people when I see them each week. I think you probably could make friends if you were bolder than me; I just am a little too shy to make the step of "let's hang out elsewhere". Digging several holes together every Saturday morning gives you lots of time to chat and is also a good shared experience. Unfortunately the spring planting season just ended last weekend, but if it looks interesting sign up for their mailing list; plantings start up again in the fall. Casey also treats their volunteers really, really well, so it's just a great place to volunteer. (I learned about it via an old ask.me post. Thanks, whoever it was that posted about them!)
posted by min at 6:18 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've done a lot of volunteering, but I'd say politically oriented volunteering gives you the widest contacts. A candidate, a party, or an issue that involves commitment and bi-weekly or weekly attendance to meetings give you the widest contacts. So, if you care about some issue, join an organization that works toward that "aim"... whatever it is, it's really just a matter of picking an organization that is active. Activity usually involves playing on your talents, or just doing things like stuffing envelopes/writing letters. The advantage is that you're usually meeting people who are somewhat like-minded.
posted by RedEmma at 4:58 PM on May 10, 2011


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