Thanks to the wonderful legacy of SCARF Founders, Sharyn and Kel Mackenzie, SCARF has always been powered by a thriving community of dedicated volunteers. Now, a grant from the IMB Community Foundation has enabled us to establish our Vibrant Volunteers Program – a robust volunteer management framework designed to support new and existing volunteers in their vital work across SCARF. This week, the final group from the intake of 90 volunteers will complete their training and induction in the program.
SCARF’s Vibrant Volunteer Program
SCARF’s Vibrant Volunteer program is headed by Lindsay Burlton, SCARF’s Volunteer and Program Manager (previously Volunteer Coordinator), whose background in volunteer management and sensitivity to refugee support has seen her capably drive the planning and implementation of this new initiative.
Uniquely, the program harnesses the skills, knowledge and experience of former refugees who now volunteer with SCARF. This has allowed the program to be tailored to the specific needs of both our volunteers and community members from refugee background.
Eugenia Pyne, SCARF volunteer & community member, briefing new volunteers on working with people from refugee background
Key components of the program include a newly developed Volunteer Handbook & Service Directory; information, training and induction sessions for new volunteers; and a specialised volunteer database. “It’s about ensuring that volunteers have everything they need to succeed in their roles providing front-line support to people from refugee backgrounds,” Lindsay explained.
“I thought the induction process was brilliant, with great diversity in conversation and information provided” – New SCARF Volunteer
Lindsay was quick to point out that SCARF has always had a positive relationship with volunteers, referencing a feedback survey conducted in 2015 that indicated the vast majority of volunteers were very satisfied with the work they do with SCARF. The survey, however, also revealed that volunteers would welcome clear role descriptions, induction training and increased ongoing support. “That’s what we’ve been striving to provide with the new structure.”
Lindsay Burlton, SCARF’s Volunteer and Program Manager, addressing volunteers at an induction
The New Volunteer Intake
Our latest volunteer intake has seen us welcome a staggering 90 new volunteers to SCARF. This group will join a community of over 200 volunteers who, through SCARF, work on the frontline of refugee settlement support in the Illawarra.
The new intake is made up of people from a diverse range of backgrounds, with ages spanning 18-82. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people and by the range of skills and experiences they bring,” Lindsay said. “Everyone from students, to current working professionals, to retirees who have so much to offer. One of the wonderful things about SCARF is that we run such a large range of programs and activities, so there’s an opportunity for everybody to make a real difference.”
A thriving culture
Lindsay’s work in volunteer management in Canada and Australia places her in a unique position to observe the culture of volunteering here in Australia. “I think the culture of volunteering is growing here in Australia and particularly in the current climate where people are feeling that there is a need to actively engage with their communities and the issues they believe in.”
In refugee support specifically, there seems to be a groundswell of people who feel compelled to take action in response to the global refugee crisis. “People are hearing a lot about refugees in the news, and are wanting to do something about it,” Lindsay explained. “SCARF provides an opportunity for people to let refugees who are arriving in our region know that they are welcome and supported.”
Volunteering at SCARF
Here at SCARF, volunteers are foundational to who we are and what we do – a value established by Sharyn and Kel. “SCARF has always been a volunteer-led and volunteer-powered organisation, and that is thanks to Sharyn and Kel Mackenzie, the founders of SCARF,” Lindsay noted, also praising the couple’s ability to “engage and activate people.”
Echoing the feelings of many in our organisation, Lindsay described the culture of SCARF being akin to that of a family. “I started off at SCARF as a volunteer as well, and it’s just an organisation that I love being a part of. It sounds a little bit cheesy but it does feel like SCARF is this big family that’s made up of our community members from refugee backgrounds as well as our volunteers.”
“It is an inclusive community. The friendships that are formed are just beautiful to see, inspiring, mutually beneficial, and life-long in many cases. It’s wonderful to be a part of.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with SCARF, you can register your interest by filling out a form on our Volunteering page. Our next intake will be in May.