Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Using Volunteers instead of full-time Workers

I was the guest speaker today at the annual general meeting of a drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation centre in South Africa. As the public was invited to attend the meeting and a group of government appointed home-based caregivers were specifically invited to attend, I was asked to speak about the principle of serving the community as volunteer – in other words, not doing this service for a salary.
In our ministry in Swaziland we make use only of volunteers. The Swaziland government as well as the South African government, have appointed a number of home-based caregivers, known as Health Motivators or Nomphilo (SiSwati for “Those who give life”). But the impression I get is that the systems in both countries are not very effective. Although they are supposed to be motivators, they themselves often seem to be unmotivated. And while I will never try and give the impression that every one of the 380 caregivers linked to our ministry are always motivated, I do think that on average they are achieving considerably more that the government people, in spite of them not receiving any compensation for this work.
The question is why this is happening. And then I often think back to the words of Jim Collins in his “From Good to Great” where he says at one place that you can never motivate someone with money. And although this may not be the full and final answer to the question, I believe that there is a lot of truth in this. On the one hand the government motivators are receiving some form of compensation, but to be honest, it’s not even close enough to really make a difference in their lives. On the contrary, I think what is happening is that the motivators are more frustrated, because they feel that they are being paid to do the work, but the salary is so small that it’s not worthwhile doing the work for the salary.
Amazingly, we have found that a number of the health motivators in Swaziland have left the government (where they received a small salary) and joined our group, where they are getting no salary, and yet they are now working more effectively than in the past.
I believe it all has to do with motivation. Am I doing what I am doing for the money I’ll receive or because I have a heart for the people and a passion to do something about the pain these people are experiencing?
Bill Hybels, in his book, Axiom, mentions one of his personal favourites: I’m not doing it for money! This axiom was born in a situation where he was travelling while he was sick and at some point, on an airport, he asked himself: “Why the heck am I doing this?” And the answer which came to his mind was: “I’m not doing it for money.” In other words: I’m doing it for God!
And possibly, this is the attitude which I want to encourage our volunteers to have. Why are you doing this work? (And believe me, hardly a day goes by that I don’t ask this question in my mind about the AIDS home-based caregivers.) And the only answer which I could get from them when I once specifically asked them this question, was because they wanted to be able to help the sick and the dying people of their communities so that they can realise that God loves them.
I’ve often wondered what I would do if I suddenly received half a million dollars, given with the intention to compensate the volunteers for their work. I’ll share it with them, of course, but I would make sure that they realise that this is not a salary – merely a way of showing our appreciation for the huge task they are doing as volunteers.


Thursday, October 9, 2008 - Posted by | AIDS, Bill Hybels, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Jim Collins, Mission, Poverty, Support teams, Swaziland, Theology

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