Possibility vs Power & Pity in Volunteerism with Breauna Dorelus

Jan 28, 08:00 AM

....the organisations' and volunteer responsibility in creating social change.

Volunteering is a large and important part of the non-profit sector, as well as social impact and social justice organisations. However, despite people genuinely coming to volunteer from a place of altruism or wanting to make a difference, entrenched bias', prejudices and power can mean volunteering creates more harm than good to individuals and communities.  

All to often volunteerism can include acts of paternalism, misuse of power, unhealthy volunteer/client dynamics, and, at times, powerlessness to actually affect change. In this episode I talk to Breaune Dorelus, Founder and Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, a consultancy dedicated to dismantling harmful volunteer practices implemented by non-profits and volunteers towards Black and brown communities. 

We discuss:
  • What's great about volunteering and community service, but also what can cause harm
  • Examples of specific harmful practices that go on which Breauna seeks to address by working with volunteers and leaders
  • What volunteering responsibly looks and feels like
  • How organisations can lead volunteer programmes that are working in partnership with the community, rather than to them
  • Top tips for volunteers wanting to do the internal work so they can volunteer responsibly and with the best interests of the community in mind


"Over the years, I saw people who looked like me made to feel powerless and less-than by volunteers, creating a continuous chain of unhealthy, co-dependent relationships between non-profits and those they serve.

Once I realized this trend, I started to challenge the norm by making small, intentional changes at the organizations I held positions in – changes that promoted the dignity and respect of clients. I assessed the effectiveness of volunteer opportunities in terms of self-sufficiency versus co-dependency, and finally moved towards the abolition of unhealthy volunteer programme practices.

The impact it made was clear to see – not only on our clients but also on our volunteers. Volunteers felt a deeper sense of connection to the cause. They felt informed. And I felt, for the first time, that we were making a true partnership between our volunteers and the community.

The community felt autonomy over their life, were served the way they wanted to be served, and were able to meet their own desired goals."

Breauna believes in community inclusion in all aspects of the volunteer process, and has dedicated her work to ensuring that service is centred around helping and not harming. Starting her 10+ year stint in the non-profit sector as an AmeriCorps member, she has continuously held positions in leading volunteers, creating programming, and spearheading community initiatives. 

Find out more about Breauna and Connecting the Cause here:
Connect with Breauna on Instagram: @connectingthecause
Visit the Connecting the Cause Website: www.connectingthecause.com
Join Breauna's The Renewed Community, which she talks about in this episode: www.connectingthecause.com/therenewed


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