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This last year I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work. A *lot* of… - Tactical Ninja

Mar. 16th, 2017

10:25 am

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This last year I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work. A *lot* of it. Like, up to 20 hours a week of it.

First, there’s the harm reduction stuff. It’s getting a lot of traction, we have support from some agencies with budgets, and we attended 8 events this season. This is an 800% increase on previous years, and gives us enough data to do something really interesting with, both academically and politically. This is awesome, but it’s also a lot of work. There isn’t just the data and the writing up to deal with, there’s the setting up of an entity that allows the work to scale, collating all our support into a single point of contact, developing processes and induction for our volunteer base, advocacy work, and furthering the long term strategy (changing the law).

The cool thing about this work is that without fail, everyone who finds out about it is positive. People go out of their way to tell me how great they think it is, how much they admire what we’re doing, and how wonderful they think we are for our efforts. It’s very validating. I mean, I’m sure there are people who disagree with what we’re doing and I’m seeking them out so that we can assess how to approach changing their minds – but in my experience, the response has been universally positive and supportive.

Contrast this with my other volunteer work, for Kiwiburn. When I took it on I said I’d do it for three years and I have. It’s been a productive three years for the event, starting with a restructure and continuing with the development of process and job related paperwork (not a lot of which existed prior and which has felt a lot like pulling teeth since nobody’s keen to spend their vollie time writing process documentation). Last year was particularly tough with a review by NZ’s state health and safety agency, a mass exodus of Operations volunteers and replacing them, and a number of unprecedented spanners-in-the-works that required delicate handling and weren’t ever going to have a friendly outcome for me personally. And then there was the bit where in order to have an event at all, we had to have a volunteer drive, 3 days into which the Volunteer Coordinator quit and I’ve been doing that ever since too. On top of Chairing the ExCom which mostly involves trying to facilitate a group of opinionated people to some kind of constructive consensus on some really tough decisions, again and again and again. Essentially, I worked my arse off for Kiwiburn last year.

All of which added up to – well, not a lot tbh. We do get thanked, on occasion. Some of us who work on the main decision-making committee make a point of thanking each other occasionally, because, well, if we didn’t then it just wouldn’t happen. I can count the times I’ve been thanked by the Kiwiburn community for my work this year on one hand. Mostly they complain about the decisions we make, tell us we are power hungry and hypocritical, accuse us of being corrupt (which is probably ironically funny since KB is a not-for-profit and nobody gets paid but oddly enough it still hurts when people say it), and make suggestions that involve doing anything except what we actually did. People seem to forget that those who volunteer to organise Kiwiburn are community members who simply care enough about it to donate their time throughout the year. I’m not sure why they think we do it, but I can say with conviction that it’s not:

- money
- power
- validation
- appreciation

Because we don't get those. Anyway, I’m stepping down from Kiwiburn on 31 March. We’ve almost finished voting in a new Chair, I’ve got some applications to replace me as Volunteer Coordinator, and I’m considering dropping the Cleanup Manager role too because I really struggled watching my friends drive away and leave me behind after the event this year, and because despite asking multiple times I still haven’t had an update from the landowner as to whether we did a good job or not. Frustrating and saddening is not what I want in a volunteer job.

Basically, I’m over it. And while I’ll work up until the day I finish because I said I would, the ongoing struggle to turn opinions into cohesive action is increasingly a chore. I ended yesterday feeling like no matter how hard I try my work for Kiwiburn will never be appreciated and I’ll never be good enough. Then I thought about the slew of communications I have received in support of the harm reduction work, the positive media we’re receiving, and the way I feel as if I’m making real change in the world through my work and people are appreciating it, and I realised it’s another no brainer.

I would love to be the person who turned Kiwiburn into a great environment to volunteer in, but I think that’s up to other people. I hope they do better, I hope the work we did supports the new team to have time to work on feelgood exercises and morale. Meanwhile I’ll be over here, doing something that actually makes me feel good about myself.

Tats’ Year of Being Selfish, underway.

Comments:

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From:fbhjr
Date:March 16th, 2017 12:03 am (UTC)
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Well, glad one of the two went well!
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From:randomdreams
Date:March 16th, 2017 04:38 am (UTC)
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I don't really feel like leaving a volunteer position in which you are vigorously unappreciated for one in which you are vigorously appreciated is selfish. In fact, I think that's likely good for every single person involved.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 17th, 2017 01:53 am (UTC)
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This is my view also. It doesn't hurt that there's a bit of a conflict of interest there too, since I'm trying to change the law to decriminalise event organisers for introducing harm reduction services. Much easier to not be an event organiser when engaging in civil disobedience, eh?
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From:pundigrion
Date:March 17th, 2017 02:59 am (UTC)
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Very reasonable!
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From:meathiel
Date:March 16th, 2017 06:23 am (UTC)
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Sorry to hear about people at Kiwiburn being ... well ... a**holes. I don't get it really - when people do all that work in their free time and aren't paid at all ... at least a thank you would be nice. I totally understand you for stepping down.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 17th, 2017 01:54 am (UTC)
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Most burners are nice people. As Bunny says below, it's most likely that the vociferous ones are the arseholes as well, and the ones who thank us do it quietly and individually instead of loudly and publicly.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:March 16th, 2017 06:37 am (UTC)
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Thing is, I've always had a certain awe for how much some people put in to Kiwiburn, and tbh, one of the reasons I haven't taken more on over the years is seeing it as a kind of black hole. (That and the need to sort my life out. :/ )

I've also noticed a total disjunct between some attitudes expressed in the wider community and the reality of things. Over the years I've had a perch nearby lots of people on the excom, so I have a sense of that reality from there. But basically I think the average burner has no idea what it takes to put the festival on behind the scenes.

And this disconnect seems like a weird breakdown. Because the burn community is one with a lot of love, support and positive vibes baked in, at least on-paddock.

(Is it an NZ/tall poppy thing? The fact that the burn on paddock is about being a non-hierarchical flow? Or an effect of scale/larger community, in that earlier it was obvious who was doing stuff but now people are more invisible? Or just that people don't know what they don't know? I also suspect clueless entitled dickheads (TM) are the kind of people who readily voice their opinions online, which may give them the appearance of disproportionate weight, whereas just saying 'yay love you guys' is less of a cultural norm, especially when there is so much focus on the on-paddock vs the year round stuff.)

I don't know what would work to repair this - a regular section of the EFP, focused on what it takes to do this, year round? Dragging the excom, ops crew, etc, out to take a bow before one of the burns? I don't know. But good people being burnt out and unappreciated for doing great work that must be appreciated, and would seem like it would have to be appreciated, if it was known and understood by the raving joy filled community that goes bananas together on the paddock, seems awful. As a tribe we need a better way to acknowledge folks.

I am quite tired and spaced out on endorphins from doing a triathlon this afternoon so I don't even know if what I am writing makes sense right now.

Um. Yay Harm Reduction!

And: thanks for all you do and have done <3

But hell yeah, do what you gotta do for you.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 16th, 2017 07:32 am (UTC)
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<3

Also wait, you did a triathlon?
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From:dreadbeard
Date:March 17th, 2017 01:22 am (UTC)
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Well, a half-triathlon.
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From:tatjna
Date:March 17th, 2017 01:48 am (UTC)
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Still, running.

Running is my nemesis and anyone who can do it in a sustained manner impresses the fuck out of me.
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From:dreadbeard
Date:March 17th, 2017 03:55 am (UTC)
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Running is gross.
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From:clevermanka
Date:March 16th, 2017 01:49 pm (UTC)
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Oof. That's hard. It sucks doing so much work for so little appreciation (and in some cases, complaints). Good for you, finishing what you agreed to but stepping away. I hope your Year of Being Selfish is Fantastic!
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From:tatjna
Date:March 17th, 2017 01:50 am (UTC)
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So far it's been awesome. I've made myself a massive furry cloak, got married, sorted out some close relationships that needed me to express what I want, taken a couple of months off work to follow my passion, and got myself free of committees.

Oh and made The Dress That Shall Not Be Named. :)
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