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:
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.