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Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the Earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another. -Erma Bombeck
WELCOME TO OUR VOLUNTEER TEAM!
Welcome to Austin Free-Net! We are thrilled that you have decided to volunteer with us and become a part of our team. Austin Free-Net is dedicated to providing technology training and access to the community, and teaching our neighbors the skills they need to succeed in the digital age. You are our lifeblood, and we couldn’t do all the great stuff we do without your help. Please know that when you give your time to our clients, you change lives. We couldn’t be more grateful and awed by the generosity, patience and kindness our volunteers show our clients. This handbook is designed to give you an overview of our organization’s mission and practices, as well as to define your role and responsibilities. We hope it will prove to be a useful tool as you volunteer your precious time with us. Be assured that the staff of Austin Free-Net is committed to making your volunteer experience with us everything you had hoped for. We will keep a clear line of communication with you, and we welcome your regular feedback. Again, thank you for volunteering with us, and welcome to our team!! Sincerely, Juanita Budd Executive Director Nancy Green Volunteer & Client Relations
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Austin Free-Net’s Mission and Goals What is the Digital Divide, and Why Should I Care? Site Locations Instructional Format
1.2 1.3 1.4
Volunteer Relations 2.1 Role of the Volunteer 2.2 2.3 2.4 Volunteer Opportunities Recruitment and Screening Orientation and Training
Policies and Procedures 3.1 Confidentiality 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Substance Abuse Firearms and Gambling Smoking Acceptable Use Media Relations Social Media Safety Tips
1.1 Austin Free-Net’s Mission and Goals
We are a non-profit corporation that was established in 1995, and we work to address the gap in technology access and skills by partnering with community sites in the greater Austin area. Clients come to us with various levels of proficiency and receive individualized training to empower them with new communication tools, enhanced job skills and the necessary knowledge to access community resources effectively. The goal of Austin Free-Net’s training program is to increase our clients’ comfort level and knowledge of computers and the Internet. Many of our clients have never touched a computer, and they are terrified of breaking it or looking silly because they don’t know what to do. Other clients need help looking for jobs, creating email accounts, or using popular software such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
It’s hard to imagine that in a city like Austin there is still a large segment of the population that has no idea how to use a computer; however, even in this high tech mecca, the digital divide exists. The digital divide is a term that describes the disparity between these two groups: those who are able to effectively access and use technology and those who are not. In these tough economic times, is this really an issue our community should spend resources to address? The answer to this question is a big, profound YES. So how does this affect you and me? When large populations in a community aren’t able to access and use technology, it hurts the whole community. Not knowing how to use email or word processors or the Internet prevents people from entering a competitive job market because most companies require online applications and digital resumes – even if computer skills aren’t a part of the job description. However, today even lowpaying, blue collar jobs often require employees to know basic computer skills. Time cards, inventory sheets and cash registers are connected to complex corporate networks, requiring every employee to be competent using technology. When people can’t find work and families can’t support themselves, the repercussions echo out into the community. Less people working means less tax revenue, and an increased pressure on social services providers. A family might need an older child to quit school and go to work, which means the cycle of low-paying jobs continues another generation. Finally, investing in Austin’s brain trust and improving the education and technical acumen of our residents draws more businesses to Austin, increasing the tax revenue, and reducing unemployment. In short, a computer literate population makes a city stronger economically and makes us more attractive to new industries. Austin Free-Net is committed to bridging this digital divide. Most of us love technology, but that’s not why we’re really here. We’re driven to know that every student we help creates a ripple within our community. One by one – family by family – Austin Free-Net is helping to level the playing field so that people committed to bettering their lives and the lives of their families, are given the tools to do so. Our clients are predominantly low-income (82% below $15,000/year) and have less than a high-school level education. Most are unemployed (64%). We also have programs that serve specific populations such as seniors, the homeless, and people with disabilities. The Austin Free-Net service model allows for each of our centers to provide computer access and training to Austin’s most vulnerable in a way that best serves the client’s needs. Here’s a snapshot of the people we serve in our labs every day throughout Austin.
What is the Digital Divide, and Why Should I Care?
Elderly Students: These students commonly believe they are too old to learn new things. They know their kids and grandkids are online, but they don't know how to begin using a computer, and they often worry about breaking it. If there ever comes a time when they are less mobile, they will be able to rely on the Internet for daily tasks, including using video to chat with a doctor, or ordering prescriptions online. Additionally, communicating with family and friends through the Internet helps overcome the feelings of isolation that plagues many elderly people. Homeless Students: It's easy to dismiss the homeless as a group of people who don't try to work or become a part of society, but the Veteran's Administration states that 46% of all homeless adults are US Veterans. In order to get out of the cycle of homelessness by securing a job, a safe place to live, and accessing public services, using a computer has become a necessity. Our trainers are on the ground in homeless shelters and in public labs throughout Austin helping this population overcome the barriers they face so they can re-enter society as productive citizens. English as Second Language Students: Learning new computer skills and terminology when you are struggling with a language barrier makes computer proficiency nearly impossible. Our bilingual trainers teach classes in both English and Spanish. This allows students to access online services that will help them continue to learn English, find jobs, and live independently. Unemployed and Under-Employed Students: Every day our trainers help people find work. They teach students how to use the Internet to search for and apply to jobs online. They also work with students to show them how to create professional resumes and cover letters. Some of our most exciting success stories are students who have found work with the help of Austin Free-Net. Students with Disabilities: Every AFN computer lab has a station that accommodates people with disabilities. The keyboard, mouse and monitor are specially-equipped to make accessing computers and the Internet possible for people with vision, hearing, mobility or other impairments.
*Austin Free-Net currently offers training at the following locations: ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless) 500 East 7th Street DeWitty Center Training Classrooms A and B 2209 Rosewood Avenue South Austin Neighborhood 2508 Durwood Trinity Center 304 East 7th Street Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center 808 Nile Street Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center 2800 Webberville St. John’s Neighborhood Center 7500 Blessing Ventana del Soul Cafe and Cultural Center 1834 East Oltorf Street
*Other volunteer opportunities are available at additional locations. Austin Free-Net has sites where a trainer is not present but a volunteer is needed.
Each client and partner site is unique. Our training modules are designed to adapt to our clients’ needs. Every training module contains a set of instructor-led classes that may be taught in sequence, rearranged or repeated to suit the audience. Most sites operate as an open clinic, and are not limited to a particular topic. In this environment, staff and volunteers act as coaches to assist clients with specific questions. Clients may have a question regarding a particular task (e.g. “How do I attach a document to an email?”), need help searching for jobs, or writing a resume. Some of our clients prefer this atmosphere to instructor-led training because they are less intimidated by the setting, or prefer one-on-one coaching.
2.1 Role of the Volunteer
Austin Free-Net’s most valuable asset is our volunteers. Volunteers allow us to expand services so we can help more people. Like most non-profits, Austin Free-Net operates on a fixed budget. Many times we have computer labs that are unattended because we can’t afford to pay staff to be there all day. This means the people who visit those labs might not have anyone to help them if they run into problems. Because of our committed volunteers, we’re able to help people who might not receive it otherwise. Volunteers don’t need to have advanced computer skills. Most of our clients are beginners – many don’t have an email address, know how to surf the Web or even how to use a keyboard. If you’re able to do these things, then you have all the computer skills you need to volunteer with us.
2.2 Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer positions generally fall into three categories: monitoring a computer lab, administrative work and technical support. 1. Computer lab monitor: Volunteers who act as computer lab monitors help clients who come into the labs. We have more than 25 sites in Austin that offer free computer access, and each site is different. Our volunteer coordinator will work with you to ensure you are assigned to a lab that fits your needs. Some labs are busy all day, and you might be paired with another volunteer or an Austin Free-Net trainer. Other labs have fewer clients, and volunteers might run the labs themselves. 2. Administrative Work: Like any other office, there is a lot to do to make sure we keep things running. We also rely on volunteers to help us with outreach, data entry, office duties, and special projects. 3. Technical Support: With so many labs across Austin, we often need help with computer maintenance and troubleshooting. These volunteers are vital to keep our labs working properly.
2.3 Recruitment and Screening
All volunteers are encouraged to complete the following tasks before being placed in a volunteer position. Complete the online volunteer application Complete the background release form Read and sign the volunteer contract Read and sign the individual photo/publicity release Attend a volunteer orientation Meet with the volunteer coordinator to talk about how you’d like to help
2.4 Orientation and Training
All volunteers are encouraged to attend a volunteer orientation. This orientation will help you decide how you would like to help and to see all the opportunities that are available to you. You’ll also meet staff, tour our main offices, and perhaps talk to clients and seasoned volunteers. Once the process is complete and you are ready to volunteer, the coordinator will meet you at your first assignment. There you will be paired with another volunteer or an Austin Free-Net staff member so you can be trained. If you are working in a computer lab, you will have a partner to help you until you feel comfortable working in the lab without the help of another volunteer or staff member. Our volunteer management system will send you automatic reminders before your shifts. If you aren’t able to work at the time arranged, please let the volunteer coordinator know by email or by phone. Within your first month of working with us, the volunteer coordinator will visit with you to ensure your needs are being met. We always welcome your feedback, and we have a feedback form that can be submitted at any time. However, this meeting is to make sure you’re comfortable with your assignment and you’re happy with your work at Austin Free-Net.
Policies and Procedures
Confidentiality is of extreme importance when working directly with our clients. Volunteers may have access to confidential information concerning the financial condition, credit history, personal or business affairs of a client. Volunteers may not use or divulge any information about a client to anyone unless authorized by the supervising program staff. Exceptions may include law enforcement if necessary.
3.2 Substance Abuse
It is the policy of Austin Free-Net to maintain a drug-free workplace. Volunteers must not possess or be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol while volunteering.
3.3 Firearms and Gambling
Possession of firearms and gambling while volunteering is prohibited.
We maintain a smoke- and tobacco-free workplace. No smoking or other use of tobacco products (including, but not limited to, pipes, cigars, snuff or chewing tobacco) is permitted in any area of the buildings.
Austin Free-Net welcomes everyone to our labs. We want our labs to be both safe and positive environment for everyone. In order to ensure this, we do not allow viewing pornography of any kind in our labs. Please note that while all pornography is against our policy and the lab rules, it is illegal to view pornographic content when minors are present, show pornographic content to a minor, and view or produce child pornography. If you observe a client viewing pornography, immediately inform an Austin Free-Net staff member who will address the situation. If there isn’t an Austin Free-Net staff member present, you may either ask the client to stop, or ask the client to leave. However, if you observe any illegal activity, you should immediately call the police and let the proper authorities handle the situation. Additional rules for clients using Austin Free-Net computer labs include: Everyone must sign in. Use cell phones outside, and keep them on silent inside. No Food or Drinks Be nice to people in the lab - no aggressive behavior or raised voices. No unsupervised children Printing is limited to 10 pages per day. Respect all people and property. Staff may ask anyone to leave the lab at any time.
If you are alone in the computer lab and a client isn’t following the rules, please ask that client to leave the premises. If the client doesn’t comply—or if you feel unsafe in any way—call the police for assistance.
3.6 Media Relations
Austin Free-Net occasionally has the opportunity for media coverage, and we encourage the media to shoot interviews and news clips at our sites. Sometimes you may find that the media will be actively taping during one of your classes, but we will make every effort to inform site staff and volunteers if we know they are coming. If we know in advance, Austin Free-Net will assign a staff member to accompany journalists, represent the organization, and help ensure that accurate information is provided. Please call the volunteer coordinator as soon as possible if the media appears at your site without our prior knowledge or consent. We request that volunteers do not speak for Austin Free Net. If you are approached by a media person, please refer them directly to Juanita Budd, Executive Director, or Sheena Harden, Director of Operations/Communications. Although we encourage our volunteers to be an active part in promoting our programs, we do understand you may have personal, religious or professional reasons to not be on camera or featured in any Website pictures. If a media event should take place during your class, you and each client will be asked to sign an individual release form. Neither you nor your clients are obligated to sign this, and you may refuse to participate. We respect your right to do so. Please be aware that we have guidelines restricting the photographing or filming of minors. No full face images or full names of minors are allowed. No consent forms will override this guideline.
We understand that you may maintain or contribute to personal blogs, message boards and social networks such as such as Facebook and Twitter. We encourage you to post information about your volunteer experiences and the work Austin Free-Net does; however, if you do decide to do so, keep the following guidelines in mind. Please do not use Austin Free-Net or AFN in your identity, such as NancyAFN or AustinFreeNetVolunteer. Ensure that people understand that your post is not being made by a representative of Austin Free-Net. Keep in mind that inaccurate, inappropriate, threatening or harassing postings may be illegal, harmful to other people, and is in violation of Austin Free-Net policy. Posts of this type may result in termination as a volunteer. If you have any questions regarding this policy and its application, please contact the volunteer coordinator.
3.8 Safety Tips
Your safety is our highest priority. At Austin Free-Net, we safeguard both your physical safety, as well as provide some rules to maintain your self-care. We act as a team, so please don’t ever hesitate to contact the volunteer coordinator or any other staff member if you have any concerns. Below are some guidelines we’ve found to work for our staff and volunteers. Safety of Individuals and Property Always report any unsafe conditions immediately. o If an Austin Free-Net staff member is present, let that person know. o If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way and there is no staff member available, call 911 immediately. We have a wonderful relationship with Austin’s police department, and they have been a great resource for us. We encourage you to take preventative actions to secure your personal property. Austin Free-Net is not responsible for any loss or theft of personal items. Never allow a relationship with a client to extend beyond helping them in the computer lab. This includes giving clients rides, helping them financially, inviting them into your home, giving them your personal phone number, email or physical address, or meeting them outside of Austin Free-Net labs.
Emotional Well-being and Boundaries One of the most gratifying aspects to working with Austin Free-Net is getting to know and bond with our clients. They are amazing people, and many are bravely facing daunting personal and family issues. While you are there to be empathetic, it is important to remember to maintain your personal boundaries. Please follow these guidelines to ensure that you are protecting yourself and providing the client with the most appropriate help during their time of need. Do not allow clients to use inappropriate endearments, such as baby, honey or any other reference that is personal in nature. Insults, yelling, raised voices, name calling, intimidating gestures or language will not be tolerated. If you encounter this, contact an Austin Free-Net staff member. If a staff member is not present, immediately call 911. Respect the personal space of your clients, and maintain your own personal space. A good rule of thumb is to stay approximately an arm’s length away from a client. Generally, do not touch clients or allow them to touch you. While handshakes are OK if you are comfortable with that contact, other touching such as hugging or tapping a client on the shoulder to get their attention is not allowed. If clients ask you personal questions, politely refuse to answer. Do not allow a client to gossip to you about other clients or Austin Free-Net staff members. Clients are in our labs to learn how to do things themselves. Sometimes they will ask you to do things that they should do themselves. Allowing this behavior is a disservice to the client and it can create an unhealthy reliance on you. Any discussion of sexual topics or personal relationships is not allowed.
Main Office 512-236-8225 2209 Rosewood Avenue Austin Texas 78768 Volunteer Coordinator 512-236-8225 x30 email@example.com Our success depends on open communication. Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator at any time, but especially in the following situations: You have any questions or you need help finding a resource You are facing a challenging situation during your shift, with your placement or with your service You would like to inform us about an organization that would benefit from any of our programs, you have ideas about how our programs could be improved, or you would like to introduce us to a funding opportunity or prospective donor You would like to discuss your resignation or change your schedule A serious incident has occurred during your volunteer shift You would like to share a story with us or recommend another volunteer or partner organization for recognition
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