One of the challenging and exciting intern duties at Hedonisia is managing and coordinating teams of volunteers! When this is done effectively, an amazing amount of work can be completed, creating a sense of camaraderie and teamwork between volunteers and interns!
i) Working with Volunteers
Our ideal Intern is someone who loves working with people on the land and property. Interns direct and work alongside volunteers during a work shift. A motivated, hard-working Intern is an inspiration to all Volunteers!
a) Preparing for a Volunteer Shift:
- Review Volunteer Application in the team Gmail account for vital volunteer info such as medical conditions, special skills or requests so you are better able to give them assignments suited to their skills, interests, and abilities
- Check ‘Unfinished Tasks’ from the previous day’s Intern Report!
- Property Walk-Around. Keep Volunteers in mind when doing task assignment
- Send Director Video Text, including 1. Weather, 2. # of Volunteers, 3. Tasks and locations for the day, 4. Check-ins/Check-outs.
- New Volunteers. Interns can look up the application of every volunteer by name in the Team email account. That way you can see if there are any special skills or needs to know about the person(s) you are working with.
- Volunteer Prep. 5-15 minutes before starting their shift, please ask volunteers to get prepped: lotion, insect repellent, closed shoes or boots, drinking water and clothing/safety glasses appropriate for the work they are doing. Let them know which clothes to wear (grungy clothes for mud work, lighter clothes for cleaning)
b) Tips for Creating a Positive, Efficient and Successful Volunteer Shift
- Work Priorities: Prioritize
(facilities, lodgings and then land )! Have more volunteer jobs in mind than you think are necessary for the shift.
- Task Appropriateness: Consider the skills, experience, and interest of volunteers when assigning tasks. Check in to be sure they are comfortable and prepared for the job at hand. For example, if you are sending volunteers out to weed-whack ensure that they know how to use the weed-whacker and that they are wearing proper clothing. If necessary, refer volunteers to related training videos on our YouTube channel.
- Rainy day jobs. Interns should have a mental list of rainy day jobs. Then you can quickly adjust a volunteer’s tasks.
- Positive Attitude. Try to stay upbeat and positive in your voice and actions while rallying volunteers! They will feed off your energy. A happy intern = a productive shift!
- Big Picture. If a volunteer is interested, try to explain to them how their work fits into the ‘big picture’ of our long-term community goals.
- Practice Public Praise, Private Critique. This method of managing volunteer behavior coincides with Hedonisia’s ‘Community of Individuals’ approach to intentional community. If a volunteer does an exceptional job during a work shift, praise them in public. If their work was underwhelming, speak with them privately.
- Verify. A volunteer’s hours and quality of work must be verified by checking on the work completed. This is best done toward the end of a volunteer’s shift.
- Mahalo! As always, be sure to thank all of the volunteers for their hard-work and acknowledge what they have done on their shift!
ii) Volunteer Work in Low Season
In Low Season with a low or a no volunteer day, it is crucial to really practice triage. Facilities, Lodgings and then land.
Examples of Low Season tasks.
- With weeding concentrate on keeping plants at least one yard away from the walls and roofs of all lodgings and facilities. This is to reduce ants and to encourage air flow.
- With fewer volunteers, concentrate morning duties on tasks needed to clean, beautify, repair or maintain the exterior and interior facilities and lodgings!
- Unless it is a project like a tree that has fallen or is affecting a lodging or facility we only concentrate on important gardens like Garden A, N, Rollinia Garden, Moon Garden.
- With fewer volunteers we don’t have to do deep garden work unless plants are growing onto or into any lodgings or facility then they should be pruned.
Are there any other ideas or suggestions you have for important tasks to keep the community functioning in Low Season?
iii) Volunteers Working in Teams, Alone or 1st Shift
If a volunteer is on their first shift or working alone, it is a good idea to work with them or partner them up.
As a ‘stranger in a strange land,’ we want to avoid the loneliness feeling that can come from being in the jungle on their first day. It is then easy for them to feel separated and isolated. So try to make sure you are working with them or that they have company as a friendly way of getting them acclimated!
To partially address that, design the shift so you are working with them. In other words, you might do a bunch of small jobs around with them. When we have few volunteers, we concentrate on facilities and lodgings.
There are usually more small maintenance jobs where it’s good to have two people rather than attempting a large weeding project. What you do NOT want to do is just give them a big weeding project in a far corner of the property and then leave them. This can bring down morale.
However, volunteers have stated that they like a balance between working solo and in teams, depending on the project.
Big Teams Volunteer Shift Overview
When you let people know numerous jobs are slated for the shift, they are more likely to work in a timely manner. A very quick introduction (3 minutes max) of the overall plan for the volunteer shift is great. However, don’t get bogged down in explanations.
Unless you are all working in the same area, it’s much better to take each person to their work area and set up their job. That way the others are hearing what you say. Then you take the others to their jobs.
If a volunteer finishes early or wants a change of work they might have already listened to the explanation so it will be much more efficient and easy to transfer them. This is especially true with larger teams of volunteers.
Sometimes we can have up to 10 volunteers on the property. When you have a big group of volunteers it can be useful to divide them into teams. This allows for several different projects/tasks to be completed at once. Be sure to check on volunteers throughout the shift and make sure they are doing okay with their assigned project.
iv) Volunteer Challenges!
We have a structured volunteer and intern program. This is one of the biggest differences between us and other new age communities. We want to make sure the work time is efficient and not sluggish.
a) Switching Hours or Starting Late. Volunteer shift
s start at a scheduled time. We will allow a volunteer to change their start time or hours once with a warning unless it is a legitimate emergency or major issue.
If a volunteer is still asleep, it may mean going to their bed space and telling them the time. Also, notify them we will start the clock once they get up and are ready. And then start with the others! We don’t want to have the whole team waiting for a straggler!
If a volunteer cannot or does not want to work on a particular day, or starts way too late, they need to pay it off.
b) ‘Stop-Work-&-Talk’! We have no problem with volunteers working together especially if doing a land project. However, some volunteers like to stop work and talk, which lowers productivity.
We encourage volunteers to chat while they are working together in a team but multi-tasking is key!
If volunteers are chatting and no longer focusing on their tasks, simply split them up and have them work in different areas.
With weeding jobs it is fine for them to work in small groups. However, in a friendly way, tell them about ‘stop work and talk volunteers’. If volunteers consistently stop work when they talk that is unproductive. they can then work on individual jobs.
c) Cell phone on shift. We ask volunteers NOT to bring their cell phones with them when on shift unless they are taking pictures of their work, which they can share with us.
v) Working as a Workout!
A Volunteer can be a Union Worker, an Intern should be a Hero! One of the biggest characteristics that set an intern apart from a volunteer is that they are proactive, taking responsibility and initiative for tasks rather than waiting to be told what to do.
When working with volunteers, we use the phrase ‘working as a workout’ to remind them of the health benefits from working different muscle groups in a property as physically challenging as ours.
This approach is a great motivator for volunteers! One volunteer in 2013 lost between 50-60 pounds!
We’ve had so many people get fit at our place, that Hedonisia can qualify as a ‘jungle gym’!
We try to motivate volunteers with our Jungle Queen program and using Work as a Workout. However, if a volunteer is complaining, simply ask them about the work they would like to do or look up their application to find other work based on their interests.
vi) Thursday Volunteer Meeting.
The Volunteer Meeting is a great way to touch base with the volunteer team and to hear their experiences and concerns from the preceding week. We want people to work hard but it is still a tourist environment!
Thursday at 12:30pm: 5-15 minute meeting with the volunteers and the intern(s) on duty to check in with how they are feeling and if they have any suggestions.
Announce meeting towards the end of the shift and tell everyone to go to Hangout zone.
- The ‘Touch base’ meeting it is optional and informal! Just a quick check-in, not a long formal meeting. If volunteers have nothing to say, the ‘meeting’ is over.
- Depending on the weather, it can happen right where everyone was working!
- The intern on duty notes volunteer comments in their report. Then on the Friday Intern Meeting, we have an ideal time to follow up!
- Fruit Harvest, Crater and/or Lava Tube Tour. After meeting, find out if everyone wants to do the crater tour.
vii) Volunteer Brain Work
If a volunteer indicates interest in our Brain projects, they can review the Mind page. They can then speak to the Community Director about whether they qualify to do work on any of our Hedo Web Portfolio Projects.
The emphasis is on deep interest! If a volunteer just wants to do mind work as a way to avoid ‘weeding’ for example then that is NOT a deep interest! So ‘feel out’ the situation to see if a volunteer seems genuine in their interest and experience or not.
viii) Volunteers working on their Lodging Spaces
If there are no other priority jobs, or if a volunteer complains about some aspect of their lodgings, they can use part of their shift to improve and beautify their living space. This gives the volunteer a sense of ownership and belonging by being able to enjoy their improved living quarters that is cleaned to a standard they like!
viii) Private Communication for Conflict Resolution & Feedback
Giving Feedback to Guests, Volunteers & Interns.
All disagreements and arguments should be handled with respect and ideally resolved in private, with no disruption to the harmony of the community.
Community interns must always be responsive to constructive criticism. Having private meetings is a method that has proven to be very successful at Hedonisia.
If an intern has to resolve a conflict between community members they should provide mediation if needed, and practice conflict resolution in a calm manner, away from guests and volunteers.
Trying to find a balance between giving feedback and hurting someone’s feelings is often a delicate one. Every intern will face this issue at some point.
We have expectations but at no point do we tell interns to be stressed out, upset, or annoyed with volunteers or guests.
We want to strive for excellence and that is why we have goals. However, we know that usually not everything will be done. When interns communicate well and they really show their efforts then we’re pretty understanding about problems that occur.
Interns work on tasks and when they have problems with a volunteer, they are expected to report, record and communicate about it, NOT to get annoyed at a volunteer.
We can use video iPhone to record negative volunteer behavior. When interns use this tool it works pretty well.
Mama Bear! As Community Director, I feel emotion because every serious mistake costs money or can affect the community negatively.
The internship is a position of trust. As interns, you get to witness the joy and the hurt of being an entrepreneur when you communicate with the Community Director! Most volunteers or guests never see my raw emotions except in a heated smoking temple discussion. Usually, it’s only interns.
In fact, interns are in a perfect position. They learn to manage a community but as long as they obey the law, there isn’t a financial or emotional liability. So there is NO reason for an intern to be upset with a volunteer!!!
It is not feminist to ‘coddle’ a female with only gentle feedback. As we have shown with our Jungle Queen approach, women are much stronger when given honest feedback.
We learned from reactions to feedback that those who contextualize constructive criticism within the greater framework of what we are doing in this community, tend to take it less personally.
ix) Recycling & Cleaning Authority
People on holiday will often ‘forget’ to do their dishes! But they pay the tourist prices which allows us to keep the community financially solvent!
A cleaning task like a sink full of dishes has to get done. An intern can choose to do it or they can communicate POLITELY about the issue.
Some interns are not confrontational types so they would rather just clean up. To confront or to clean is the choice of interns based on their personality type.
- Recycling & Garbage: Every volunteer and intern should sort the garbage &
recycling bins on one of their first shifts. This may instill good recycling habits and awareness early on in their stay and eliminate some of the sorting the intern on duty would have to do otherwise.
- Compost. After a weed-whacking session, rake the grass clippings and put them in the compost. This will help it break down, and prevent the animals (cats, dogs) from eating it. It will also prevent rodents from feasting on it.
- Volunteer Cleaning Authority: If a volunteer leaves dishes in the sink or does not clean up, instead of repeatedly confronting the individual, we simply schedule them for the next cleaning shift. We have them do a deep cleaning, so they understand how to keep all communal areas and lodgings spic and span. Try to ensure that each volunteer has at least one cleaning shift during their stay. This gives the Volunteer the opportunity to clean communal spaces and gently remind other Hedonisians to clean up after themselves. Interns can note which volunteers or guests are not cleaning up after themselves in the Intern Report or Meeting Notes. That way the intern on the next shift can assign them some cleaning time!
x) Volunteer Sensitivities: Weather, Bugs & Work!
Interns lead volunteers not only during the work shift but also during the day by trying to keep positive energy flowing. Being the tropics, there will be days when it rains all day. Interns must still be able to motivate volunteers to get jobs done while trying to facilitate fun and interesting activities to make the day go by smoothly.
An Intern’s attitude towards rain or sun will influence everyone. Weather is not ‘bad’ or ‘good’, attitudes towards it are! We simply adapt our jobs based on weather and peoples sensitivities!
To strike a balance between weather, productivity and health we have the following common sense tips:
Check with volunteers in regards to their weather sensitivities. Never assume that just because it’s raining all volunteers will not want to work outside. Many people love to do physical work weeding, gathering mud or washing the bus in the rain. There is something very primal and satisfying about doing sweaty, dirty work in the rain!
In the tropics, a torrential downpour can come and go in 15 minutes! Use the iPhone to check the weather to see if it’s going to rain all morning before reassigning jobs.
Always have some rainy day (or sunny day) jobs in your head when starting a shift. Cleaning of lodgings and facilities is always needed and is a perfect backup if the weather changes.
When the sun is hot, make sure that volunteers have the right clothing or give them a shady job! We always have a supply of sun hats and long pants or shirts in the volunteer clothing if needed by our paler people. (Good rainy day job to clean and maintain volunteer clothes. Because we have so much rain, when it’s sunny volunteers will enthusiastically want to get their ‘work out’! This is not a problem but remind them to stay hydrated and apply sunscreen, which we have in our community first aid.
Volunteers & Fire Ants. If we stop work once somebody is bitten then no outdoor work will get done and the property would quickly become consumed by the jungle! So we have devised an Outdoor Volunteer Fire Ant Work Policy:
- When a volunteer is about to start, explain the issue of fire ants in a calm, professional way.
- Encourage them to use sunscreen or raw aloe to preemptively deal with bites.
- Never carry wood or weeds close to your body.
- If bitten, rub aloe vera all over the bite areas to reduce irritation.
- Fire Ant Hose off! Instruct volunteers to hose themselves down if they are freaking out with fire ant bites. A cold hose shower is better to wash the ants off and soothe the pain than a regular shower which is more time consuming because of clothes changing etc. Plus the hose washes the ants of the clothes! However, if a person is covered with ants they can shower and change clothes.
- After washing off, return to volunteer duties.
- If a volunteer does not want to return to weeding, they can do a cleaning/organizing job.
- Always explain that this is NOT our fault. We are simply trying to continue this community in the face of an invasive species, and we are always open to suggestions!
xi) Intern Relations with Volunteers & Volunteer Guests
The main difference between a Volunteer and an Intern is the type of work they do
- Interns who decide to begin a relationship with a volunteer must still keep Hedonisia as their main priority when on shift.
- Interns must be sure to not let emotions affect the work they assign to volunteers, positively or negatively.
- Work should be done fairly, with the person most adept being assigned a job.
- Transitioning to an Intern position while your friends are still Volunteers can be tricky. Keep the personal relationship separate from the working relationship with a clear, polite and respectful communication.
Guest Policy – All guests brought on the property by a volunteer are required to show a form of ID at the front desk for Hedonisia’s records. The guest visit is limited to 3 hours between the hours of 10 am to 9 pm. If the guest stays overnight there is a $20 fee.
xii) Volunteers Leaving with Aloha!
Honorable Departure Checklist.
Volunteers don’t have to work on the day of their departure, but if it’s a weekday the day before, it’s still a normal volunteer day.
Volunteers who are leaving should clean out their space. The Intern on duty is responsible for checking the place out before the Volunteer/Intern checks out.
- change out pillows
- clear bed space
- clear out food and donate appropriate items to the communal pantry
- donate or remove any shower supplies
For volunteers, the general guideline is to ‘leave it as you found it.’ A volunteer who leaves their home space sloppy is not making the best ‘aloha’ statement!