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In the time of COVID-19, we are all volunteers by Aleksandra Vasic

March 31, 2020 1:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Dear Colleagues,

As I sit down to write to you for this month’s ePowerline, I struggle with where to begin. The extent of global interdependence and interconnection is both a blessing and a curse, allowing this virus to spread at an unimaginable and relentless rate. To be depressed and anxious is frankly a rational response to what we are all experiencing.

I am, at the same time, an optimist by nature, and much of what I’ve seen and read recently has fed the optimistic side of my mind. A crisis of these proportions throws everything that we have taken for granted into sharp relief and that insight creates possibilities for the way we might reconstruct our world post-pandemic. I can now really appreciate all those things that were practically invisible to all of us a few short weeks ago. Beyond having a robust healthcare system that is prepared to deal with a pandemic, I also see how important it is that we listen to our scientists and doctors, that we elect leaders who make decisions guided by evidence and not ideology. That governments, and government spending, matters. That the people working in our essential services matter, including those working in the grocery stores, or those gig workers we rely on to deliver online purchases to our doors. We need to thank them every time we purchase something; perhaps leave a note at the door if you are expecting a delivery. I truly hope that as a society we are starting to understand that precarious employment means a precarious economy when so many people get thrown out of work without access to income. 

And of course, of particular interest to us, is that as a society we will all get to see what a world without formal volunteers looks like. A few years ago, PAVRO member and mentor (and all-around champion of our field), Faiza Venzant initiated a video project to demonstrate what a world without volunteers looks like. Unfortunately, it could not be completed but in many ways, we are now living out that thought experiment, as many of you have told us that your operations and volunteer programs, other than those deemed essential, have been shut down. So my other hope is that as a society we really do begin to appreciate how indispensable volunteers, and those of us working to engage them, are to a thriving civil society.

The thing that gives me hope most of all is witnessing how all of us as individuals are stepping up and “volunteering” to do the right thing during this crisis in order to protect our most vulnerable, largely by staying home and physically distancing ourselves from each other, despite the enormous economic cost to society. Beyond staying home and distancing, we are all staying socially close through remote means and safely helping out those in our community who need it. I hear about people in neighbourhoods, condo buildings and online groups rallying to serve and help others in need; my vote for word of the year is “caremongering”. Such examples show us that the drive to help others is an innate human need, whether we call it volunteering or not, whether or not we formally engage, screen, onboard and recognize it. Along those lines, I am also incredibly grateful for the technology which allows us to stay socially close while physically apart.

Finally, this crisis also makes me see how much our associations matter, especially now when we are all working solo in our home offices (and kitchens, in my case) and trying to understand the implications of this crisis on our volunteer programs, our organizations and ultimately, our jobs. The PAVRO board is committed to ensuring that we keep everyone connected, and we are doing that by creating online networking opportunities in the weeks and months to come. Our Webinar Committee is currently exploring ideas, and reaching out to potential speakers and we hope to make some announcements very soon.

Stay tuned for dates announcing the online AGM and professional development/networking opportunity.  This will be a first for PAVRO, and I suspect we won’t be the only organization to host an online AGM.

Finally we have rescheduled our in-person conference for October 8th and 9th and we are keeping registration open until March 31st in case you would like to spend your professional development dollars in this current fiscal year. Being able to host this event in-person would represent an enormous celebration for us - because it would mean that we’ve moved beyond the pandemic peak and beyond the need for physical distancing. I look forward to shaking your hands and even (gasp!) hugging some of you - yet other simple pleasures that we have all taken for granted.

I will never take conversations with my peers and colleagues for granted. Contact me at and let me know what is on your mind, and what you would like to see from us as an association. I’m always open for a phone call and we welcome your ideas and questions.

Stay in touch. Thank you for all that you do, both personally and professionally, and virtual hugs to all of you!

Aleksandra Vasic


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