Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: Orchard: Africa Edition

Orchard: Africa volunteers at work
Orchard: Africa volunteers at work

Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Cindy Nelson, Missions Director at Orchard: Africa

Adam: How does your organization fight hunger?

Cindy: Twenty one years ago, in a dusty town in the North West Province of South Africa, children from a surrounding village were rummaging on the city garbage dump for food. A few people from a local church decided to cook a pot of food and feed these children. From this compassionate response, the organization Orchard: Africa was born.

For the first ten years, Orchard: Africa grew from being a church led feeding project for 30 children to becoming a multi-programmed response to the poverty and AIDS cycle in rural Africa. Today we work in 25 villages and implement three main projects in each village. Each village has a feeding project that serves a minimum of 200 children a lunchtime meal a minimum of five times a week. We also have an Orphan Intervention Program that children from the village who have lost one or both parents attend. Lastly, each village has an HIV/AIDS Prevention Course that is taught to a minimum of 1,000 teenagers each year.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers?

Cindy: Through VolunteerMatch, we have grown our volunteer group from around 30 volunteers to upwards of 100. VolunteerMatch has given us a platform where we can connect with individuals and groups that are already looking to get involved in the volunteer world. We are able to post each of our opportunities on the website, and have gotten tremendous responses for each opportunity.

Adam: You’ve been particularly successful at recruiting volunteers for your cause – do you have any suggestions for fellow organizations looking to emulate your success?

Cindy: One of the biggest things that we have learned at Orchard: Africa is that you have to publicize your volunteer needs. Otherwise, no one outside of your core group will know about them. We have also learned that volunteers need to be able to have an entry level, non-committal volunteer opportunity where they can come, get involved, and learn more about what you are doing. Volunteer opportunities should encourage families and large groups to participate for maximum response.

Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?

Cindy: Our volunteers are appreciated at a yearly event where we celebrate both our partners and our volunteers. In addition to the yearly event, volunteers are encouraged through phone calls, handwritten thank-you notes, and small tokens of appreciation.

Adam: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow organization hoping to join the fight against hunger, what would you say?

Cindy: Our advice for a fellow organization that is hoping to join the fight against hunger would be to research what other organizations out there are doing. Decide whether you are trying to do the same thing, or if you have a completely new approach. Learn from the successes and failures of like-minded organizations, and make sure to learn from them. Your end goal should be to bring long lasting, sustainable change to the communities that you work with. Together we can do so much more.