Like many volunteers, my motivation for volunteering was hard to pin down. To others, it seemed wild that I would willingly spend weeks on end learning about issues like sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. But when I found out about the opportunity to volunteer with Monarch Services in Santa Cruz, CA while I was in college, I jumped at the chance. These issues had always been important to me, and I was thrilled at the chance to be there on the front lines to support people who have experienced these issues, educate the community and turn my passion into action. I worked on their 24 Hour Hotline and did community outreach on my campus and in the community. It was such a rewarding experience, I knew I wanted to stay in this line of work. Of course these are intense topics, but I knew the only way to change the world and end issues like domestic violence and sexual assault was to step up and participate in the fight. Volunteers are motivated by their desire to be the change they wish to see in the world, and I was no exception.
When I joined AmeriCorps VISTA and became the Volunteer Coordinator with CORA, I was excited to work with people who felt that same passion and to help turn their passion into action. Volunteering is rewarding for so many reasons, but it really does take a special kind of person to sit through dozens of hours of training (40 hours to be exact), and then spend more hours each week working to end domestic violence. Vicarious trauma is real, and while we do our best to emphasize self-care, this work isn’t for everyone. It can be disheartening to see the ugliest parts of our society up close – but it can also be immensely rewarding to be surrounded by talented, passionate people who are working to support survivors and victims. Our volunteers work on the Crisis Hotline, accompany clients to court, work with the children of our clients, give presentations to the community, and more! Each one combines their passion for this issue and their unique skills to support CORA in our mission to end domestic violence.
Volunteering takes a lot of time, commitment, and strength, but it has a lot of perks too! Many of our volunteers go on to graduate school in areas like social work, marriage and family therapy, and law, and their time with CORA undoubtedly gave them the skills and knowledge to turn their passion into a career. Volunteering also benefits CORA as an organization. Our staff are all wonderful, talented people, but like all people, they need support. Volunteers help answer the Crisis Line when staff are in a meeting, they go to resource tables and spread the word about CORA in the community and bring fresh and new ideas to the staff. Best of all, sometimes our volunteers eventually join CORA as staff.
We appreciate everything our volunteers do, and try to show that appreciation in various ways. Staff and volunteers work closely together, and those close relationships are essential to the work we do. From thank you cards to just a simple, “Thank you” now and again, sometimes the smallest gestures mean the most. We also honor our volunteers in a formal way every spring with our Volunteer Appreciation Event. We award three special volunteers with either the Wolfklain Commitment Award, Skill Based Award or Impact Award, and honor all of our volunteers with certificates of appreciation. It’s a unique chance to show our volunteers how deeply we appreciate the work they do, and a fun chance for volunteers and staff to socialize outside of work.
CORA is always happy to have more volunteers, and most of our volunteers get started in our 40 Hour Domestic Violence Training, which takes place in February and August of every year. We are always happy to spread knowledge about this important and help individuals become agents of change in our community. Volunteering is a great way to support CORA and your community, while joining the fight to end domestic violence.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Erica West is an AmeriCorps VISTA and Volunteer Coordinator with CORA. She graduated UC Santa Cruz in 2014 with a degree in Psychology. She is passionate about domestic violence and sexual assault, and enjoys traveling and going to brunch.