Volunteers Play Critical Role in Helping to Improve Global Health Outcomes and Heal our Nation
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President
MedShare exists to improve the quality of life of people and our planet. We do this by redirecting critical unused medical supplies and quality biomedical equipment to vulnerable healthcare systems in the US and around the world. In doing so, MedShare helps save lives by providing better access to quality health care for millions of underserved individuals in the world’s most marginalized communities. To fulfill our mission, three essential ingredients are required – funding, quality supplies & equipment, and volunteers. When these three things come together, we can create what we fondly call MedShare Magic – making the impossible, possible.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
Of course, the value of volunteers is not unique to MedShare, nor is it measured simply by the hours they contribute. Key findings from the AmeriCorps Office of Research and Evaluation 2019 Current Population Survey: Civic Engagement and Volunteering Supplement (by Laura Hanson Schlachter, Ph.D.) noted that volunteering and national service are cornerstones of democratic participation and civility in American society. Unpacking trends in civic behavior is a first step toward developing a comprehensive plan to unify the country in this moment of national reckoning.
The report found that the national organization-based volunteering rate has remained stable over the past two decades. In 2019, an estimated 30 percent of Americans or 77.9 million people reported they volunteered for an organization or association. Consistent with previous research, 2019 volunteering rates vary by demographic, socioeconomic, and family characteristics. Unpacking these patterns requires an intersectional approach that understands social inequalities like race, class, and gender as deeply intertwined.
People often hear me refer to our volunteers as the “heartbeat” of our organization. Without them, like countless other nonprofits, we simply could not do the work that we do to improve health outcomes for underserved individuals and families around the world. MedShare was very fortunate to benefit from the dedicated service of nearly 20,000 volunteers each year prior to the pandemic, and even with the social distancing requirements in place after it began, countless volunteers continued to give their time to MedShare.
The question I am most often asked regarding our volunteers is, “How do you attract so many volunteers and keep them engaged and coming back year after the year?” We have found that the key is attracting the right volunteers and providing a meaningful and fulfilling experience. We understand that a successful volunteer experience inspires a sense of community and togetherness, while also being rewarding for the individual. This requires concise directions, clear expectations, and great coaching. While volunteers most often show up for causes that are meaningful to them, they must feel that they are truly making a difference.
With this in mind, all MedShare volunteers are warmly welcomed and carefully guided through our volunteer process, ensuring they understand they are appreciated and an integral part of our mission. All volunteers are provided with an overview of our medical supply sorting process and safety protocols by our highly trained volunteer management team, which also shares impact stories so that volunteers understand the difference that they are making in the lives of others. As an added benefit, volunteers at MedShare have a great opportunity to learn about global health and our efforts to help battle social and economic inequalities.
Many corporations, civic groups, educational institutions and faith-based organizations support MedShare’s mission through their volunteer efforts. We always strive to recognize and utilize the unique talents of the individuals who volunteer with us, whether they work in the sorting room, provide operational assistance or leadership expertise as members of MedShare’s Board of Trustees.
While our volunteers often tell us they are changed because of their experience with us, it is MedShare that is changed by the selfless acts of kindness and gifts of service we witness every day.
Here are some examples of the feedback we have received from volunteers:
“When I pack a box of medical supplies, for those few precious moments I feel like I’m reaching out across the globe and helping improve the health care and well-being of some lovely, well-deserving person. It is a wonderful feeling. I am grateful that MedShare gives me the opportunity to help others.”
“It makes me feel good to know I am helping people all over the world.”
“After three hours of sorting or boxing medical supplies, I know I have made a difference for the well-being of someone in the world.”
As we continue to build back our volunteer corps to pre-pandemic levels, we are inspired by the generosity and contributions of our core volunteers and the new groups that have chosen to help MedShare deliver on our mission. Our heart is beating a little slower, but I look forward to the day that we will once again welcome our full complement of volunteers to help us create more MedShare Magic.
How Can You Help?
Please consider volunteering at your favorite charity or nonprofit organization. The upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 16, 2123, is considered a National Day of Service and a great time to start!
The MedShare volunteer management team is ready to help you or your volunteer group set up a great session of sorting medical supplies. Please check our website for the most current information on group sizes and hours of operation. To get started scheduling your session, visit http://www.medshare.org/volunteer.
Southeast Warehouse and Distribution Center
3240 Clifton Springs Road Decatur, GA 30034 USA
Northeast Region Volunteer and Collection Center
701 Penhorn Avenue, Unit #3
P.O. Box 2075 Secaucus, NJ 07096 USA