LVC Program Watch: Anti-Oppression Training, Mental Health, and Placement Electives

Anti-Oppression Training Reimagined

In response to previous LVC Volunteer feedback that anti-racism training was more like an intro-101 class and spoke only to white Volunteers, leaving People of Color out of the conversation, LVC paused training to consider new models for preparing its Volunteers for service and life.

After evaluating several national providers, LVC is taking a different approach, one that is more co-creative and helps the organization better learn to live its values — while teaching new Volunteers the same.

In August 2021, anti-racism training becomes an anti-oppression “walk” designed not around personal privilege recognition and growth with an equity goal, but with a systemic lens and liberation goal. The three-day conversation involving Volunteers, staff, and board will be led by Lenny Duncan, theologian, activist, author, grace seeker, Lutheran ELCA pastor, where he’ll invite the LVC community to use a liberation lens on service and community organizing, oppression analysis, and relationship building. Lenny will then walk with LVC over the year with quarterly check-ins around how Volunteers, staff, and board used our new lens to further living out our core values. The journey always continues.

Volunteer Orientation Includes Mental Health

Volunteer mental health was highlighted this year when a Volunteer’s Placement ended due to mental health issues; and questions arose about how Volunteers can remain in the program if unable to serve at their Placement. With a wave of negative email responses, LVC invited advocating alumni to step up to lead as resources in mental health assessments and conversations during the service year. The newly formed Mental Health Resource Group (MHRG), including alumni and staff, formed, and alumni will introduce mental health in the service year conversation at August orientation. Alumni will serve all year, fielding Volunteer challenges and resources to give LVC professional support for managing Volunteer mental health cases. There will be additional check-ins on mental health at Program Day retreats over the service year.

Funding Placement Electives for Volunteers When Placement Ends

For FY21, LVC had to return $40,000 in Placement fees for Volunteers who terminated their service year early.  In spring 2021 some alumni voices demanded LVC permit Volunteer stays without Placement funding.  And while LVC agreed to continue a renewed focus on flexibility, the cost is high.  LVC is inviting alumni advocating for “Volunteer unfunded stays” to become lead donors, or sustaining monthly donors, to help keep Volunteers on board after Placement funding ends.

 LVC has employed solutions in the past, which continue on a case-by-case basis. Volunteers can seek out new funded Placement opportunities on their own; or choose one offered by LVC when an unmatched Placement exists in the city and is a good fit. Alternatively, LVC has offered “Placement Electives,” which are Volunteer-picked volunteering that keeps a Volunteer engaged on their own terms, without being funded by the nonprofit, while the Volunteer still receives LVC benefits (housing, stipend, health insurance, programming, etc.). When Volunteers are unable to find a funded Placement, LVC carries the expenses but loses the Placement fees which fund Volunteer participation.

As staff continue to find creative ways of keeping Volunteers engaged while also sustaining the financial health of the organization, alumni advocating for unfunded Volunteer Stays are encouraged to 1) become lead donors funding Volunteer stays; and 2) become substantial sustaining monthly donors to reverse individual giving declines that further erode LVC’s ability to offer services without Placement funding support.