Saying ‘Yes’ to Volunteering at Okanagan Waldorf School
When I first came to this little school in 2006, it was a joyful little kindergarten and preschool, being run out of the founder’s home. There were about eight families altogether in the school. The group of people who were spearheading the project were parents who wanted to create something truly worthwhile for their children, each other’s children, and more children to come.
I was struck by how much they took up, how meaningful their work, and how much they enjoyed each other’s company. I was inspired, and I thought to myself ‘I want to be a part of this’. So, I started volunteering.
Fast forward a decade and I’m now the Volunteer Coordinator here at Okanagan Waldorf School. Our organization has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. One thing that has never changed is the countless contributions by so many volunteers. Our innovative school is succeeding and growing in large part because people give a hearty ‘Yes!’ when they are asked to take part and lend a hand.
Our volunteers contribute by participating in work parties, festivals, public relations events, community events, committees, outdoor and indoor maintenance, food prep, repairs, snow removal, fundraising, classroom support, financial planning, campus development, skill sharing, and more. All of these contributions help make our school the provider of unique and wonderful opportunities.
At the end of last year I completed the tracking process for volunteer hours by the parents, and I was struck by the tally. About 1500 hours of volunteer time had been contributed over the school year by our families. That is an average of about 30 hours per family! All of these contributions have helped our school keep our costs down and our productivity up. It’s easy to understand the practical and logistical benefits of having a robust volunteer base, but I’d like to draw attention to some other benefits that result from this kind of participation.
Volunteering at OWS often gives people the opportunity to develop new skills and experiences outside of their usual comfort zone. Often I will ask a parent to take up a volunteer task and they will respond with ‘Well, I’ve never done anything like that before, but I’ll try.” As a volunteer, I think we feel a bit less pressure to be perfect, which gives us the room to try something new and learn a new role.
There is a special thing that happens when we volunteer here at Okanagan Waldorf School. We work alongside others who have also chosen to bring their child(ren) to this unique school. In this we already have a common ground. Through this commonality, and through working together towards the betterment of this project, we often develop relationships with each other and a connection to the place where our children are educated. A sense of community develops this way. Our children are supported when they see their parents engaging with their school. This in turn supports the teachers in their classrooms, when the children and their families are engaged.
I have experienced all of these things over the years. Some of my closest friendships have been developed while building a school alongside amazing and committed people. As we work together I take part with my fellow volunteers, solidifying our resolve towards creating this project that is Okanagan Waldorf School.
So, the next time you are asked to lend a hand, remember that you may be being offered something more than just the opportunity to support a very worthwhile cause.
Written by Jen de Bourcier
Mom of 2 Okanagan Waldorf Students, and 1 Okanagan Waldorf Alumni