VOLUNTEER BOUNDARIES POLICY
Statement of Beliefs
ReEstablish Richmond believes that refugees:
Sensitize us to issues far away and close to home. Refugee voices matter, adding value to the greater community. Refugees themselves bring creative energy, determination, a wealth of experience, and a depth of perspective to their new communities. The long journey of resettlement begins when refugees arrive in their new country and continues until they are fully integrated in the community. Doing it alone is possible, but having community partners involved in the process increases the chances of success and benefits everyone.
ReEstablish Richmond believes that volunteers:
Play an important role in the work that we do and community members can positively impact the lives and resettlement of refugees. While we strongly encourage building and maintaining relationships with the refugee community, we also want to make sure that the relationships are healthy and positive for everyone involved. It is imperative that the actions of volunteers working with ReEstablish Richmond are cohesive with the goals of the organization, which primarily includes creating a path to self-sufficiency. The process of resettlement and acclimating to a new culture is very challenging. We want to provide the necessary tools for success and empower refugees to use them, not necessarily do all of the work for them. We are thrilled to have volunteers and partners who are ready to help and build relationships with refugees!
We accept some donations from community members and organizations. However, if you would like to donate a personal item to a refugee that is large or of significant monetary value, we recommend that you do so anonymously. You can give it to a ReEstablish Richmond staff member and it will be donated through the organization to the individual or family in need. However, because restricted giving laws, you can make a donation to ReEstablish and ask that we give it to a specific family, but we have the right to make the ultimate decision as to who the items or money will go to. You may use your discretion when choosing to donate anonymously, but we highly recommend it. Many cultural differences exist around gift-giving. For instance, some cultures find it embarrassing to accept gifts and do not like to feel indebted to someone else. Some cultures are more accepting of it, and believe it to be hospitable to give and receive gifts. However, you should never assume that you understand someone’s beliefs surrounding gifts. Excessive gift-giving has the potential to set a precedent and create a system of dependency rather than contributing to self-sufficiency. If you would like to donate large items or items that may require storage or hauling, then we may direct you to another organization working with refugees because of their capacity for storage.
It is very important that you define your role as a volunteer to the refugees that you work with. Volunteers should not misrepresent themselves as staff members. While we recognize that many of our volunteers have very valuable skills to offer, we ask that volunteers do not make promises or commitments to refugees that are outside of their area of competence. There will be many tempting opportunities to do this. Refugees are faced with many foreign
systems upon arrival that they do not understand such as healthcare, social services, public transit, and education. Sometimes, they can be so overwhelmed with new information and experiences that they need a lot of extra help completing tasks. Often, they do not receive all of the help that they need from professional channels, so they may ask anyone that is at their disposal. Here is a potential encounter that you may have as a volunteer with us: You return from showing a refugee how to ride the bus. He invites you inside to meet his family. You sit down, and after talking for a while, the family brings you a stack of Medicaid paperwork that they need help filling out. They do not understand and you see that their mailbox is filled with letters that look urgent from Medicaid. You really do not know much about Medicaid, but they look really desperate and you could probably figure it out if you tried. They also tell you that their baby is sick and they need to go to the doctor, but they do not understand how to use the Medicaid insurance. What do you do? The answer is: be honest with them. Tell them that you are a volunteer, and that you do not know much about this. You can always tell them that they can call their case manager or call a ReEstablish Richmond staff member to help them or direct them to the right help. If you try to help a refugee outside of your area of competence, you may end up causing more confusion for them.
Cars and Transportation
Volunteers should not transport clients in their vehicles until a liability waiver has been signed. Volunteers should use discretion about when to transport clients. It is important to remember that we want to empower clients, not rescue them. We want to assist them when possible, not do the work for them. Keep this in mind when assessing transporting a client. Repeated transportation assistance can potentially build reliance rather than promote self- sufficiency and independence. Please seek clarification or support from a staff member if you are unsure whether or not assisting a client with a specific transportation need is contributing to helping them toward self-sufficiency.
Communication and social cues are very different across cultures. In the United States, it is common to make empty and/or meaningless invitations to other people as means of being polite or hospitable in a social setting. Some examples: “I will see you soon, goodbye,” or “Yeah, we should definitely hangout sometime,” or “I’ll call you sometime.” Sometimes, we have no real intention of hanging out or calling the person back even though we say that we will. For many refugees, these kinds of statements are promises or definitive invitations to meet again. It is important that volunteers and community members realize that if they make these statements, many refugees will be waiting for that phone call, or may show up at a meeting place and wait because they took those statements as concrete invitations. It is important to be very clear and succinct in communication and be mindful of cultural differences.
Sexual and Physical Contact:
Sexual and/or physical contact is defined as any contact between a volunteer and client that could be construed as all or any of the following: sexual, sensual, flirtatious, unwarranted, uncomfortable, or aggressive. All volunteers are prohibited to have any sexual or unwarranted physical contact with a current refugee client. In addition to contact, volunteers are also prohibited to engage in any dialogue, gesture, or action that could be perceived as inappropriate, sexual, flirtatious, demeaning, or aggressive. Volunteers are asked to refrain from dressing in attire that is sexually suggestive in nature. All of these acts may cause psychological and/or physical harm to clients, volunteers, and client communities.
As a volunteer with ReEstablish Richmond, you will be working with people from a variety of religious backgrounds. As an organization, we are not affiliated with any specific faith and do not support any attempts to evangelize or convert a refugee to another religion. As a volunteer, it is prohibited to actively evangelize to a refugee as a representative of our organization. This kind of activity does not contribute to the goals of the organization and does not align with our values. While members of faith communities are very valuable to our work, we ask that you respect this policy while actively volunteering with us.