Friday, May 08, 2009

The power of mentoring - volunteers as leaders

Most of the articles on this blog focus on what people need to do to help make volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs more available to inner city kids.

At this point, there are too few programs in most places (see maps here, and here, to judge for yourself) and there are too few donors providing consistent, flexible, operating dollars needed at each tutor/mentor program location.

My belief is that the only way that will change is if the program strategy aims to transform the volunteer, not just the youth. In fact, I believe that unless we do not change what the adults do, and how much they are willing to sacrifice, we'll never have enough resources to do everything that is needed to offset the negatives of poverty, racism, violence, and all sorts of other issues that make growing up in urban poverty a much different challenge than growing up any where else in the USA.

Thus, Cabrini Connections has always sought to empower its volunteers to be leaders. As a result, we have volunteers who have been connected to us for more than 30 years, who still tutor, make donations, serve on boards, or help organize activities.

Today I want to point to Rebecca Parrish, who joined us as a volunteer about 4 years ago. She took over the lead of a video project which had been started a year earlier by other volunteers. This project was completed this spring, and copies can now be purchased on eBey.

What I want to praise about Rebecca, is how she is using her web site to share with others the work she does with us, and with other non profits. Click here to see a video about the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Click here to see information about the RawVoices award.

This graphic is one of many you can find on this blog showing complex problems, leadership, and actions that can lead to more and better tutor/mentor programs helping kids through school and into careers.

Without volunteers who are part of Cabrini Connections, or part of other volunteer based tutor/mentor programs, in Chicago, and in other cities, taking on the network-building role that we describe in this graphic, we'll never increase the pool of donors, or change the way funding is provided through competitive grants, or tops down restrictions.

However, as more and more of our youth, alumni and volunteers take the time to tell the story of where and why they are involved, more of the people they know will begin to provide their own time, talent, and dollars, to help.

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