Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Volunteers-on-demand

Two incidents today and yesterday made me think about the perceptions people have of volunteers. A woman wrote in yesterday to say she was unhappy with the way another woman treated her and she mistakenly thought that the latter was a CWS volunteer. I know the woman in question and she's not a volunteer, but she runs a small rescue operation of her own. The person who emailed had tried to call but could not get the other woman over the weekend, so because she was in the neighbourhood she drove over to donate some food and to ask to view the cats. The woman who owned the house was, according to the complainant, rude to her. The complainant ended off by saying that it was early in the evening and she didn't understand why the woman would not let her in.

Now while I can see that the woman who owned the house could perhaps have been more polite about it (and of course I'm only hearing one side of the story), I also did write back to the complainant to say that I hoped she understood this woman was a volunteer. She is doing it out of her own time and money and out of her own house. She of course has a right to let anyone she wants in - and keep anyone out. People book appointments to see the dentist, to get their hair cut, to see someone for a business meeting - so why not to view a cat for adoption? The complainant was upset that the woman did not pick up the phone, but again, she's not doing this as a business and is not obligated to do so. For example, if you ring your doctor and can't get through, would you turn up at night at their house and ask to see the doctor? Putting yourself in woman's shoes, it's as if you work for say the PUB and someone comes to your house and says their tap is out of water so you better let them in so they can get some from you. Of course on top of all of this, these people doing rescue work aren't being paid for it - they're in fact expending money to do it!

Someone who writes in quite frequently also dropped me an email to say that someone had complained about the Society on another message board and said someone had been rude to her on the phone a few years ago and hence she'll never join CWS. Of course this is entirely her perogative, but again while she said she got the number from the vet, CWS has never had an official phone line except for our 7000 CATSNIP number so I have no idea whom she spoke to or when. She mentioned the person she spoke to had said that she was a volunteer and could not come and trap the cat for her and that they could loan a cat trap to her. She complained that this was not being helpful and she had to rely on herself as a result. Again, I cannot comment on what was said as I wasn't there, but the person allegedly from CWS, was a volunteer - *drumroll please* and exactly like the complainant. I know the early CWS volunteers learnt everything about TNR from scratch - they didn't have anyone to teach them - and they were out at all hours trying to get the cats.

People have asked why we don't have a phone line - and the reason is that when we did, we got inundated by calls and without someone to pick up the phone all day, we wouldn't be able to get to all those calls anyway. Plus we don't pick up cats - that's not what we do and what the vast majority of calls are about. My number is pretty much public knowledge - and I have to turn it off after work. I used to leave it on all day and it drove me insane - I used to hear the phone ringing even when it wasn't.

Picture this :- It's Saturday night at a friend's and he's cooked a lovely home-cooked dinner and the phone rings. It's a feeder who is calling to tell me she's upset about her dog who died two years ago and she starts crying - so of course I have to talk to her. Meanwhile, dinner is getting cold, and my friend literally starts banging his head against the table in faux-desperation. I end up talking to her for at least twenty minutes (this same woman will later on call me and ask me to post bail for her after she got into a fight but that's another story).

Christmas Eve a few years ago - I'm at lunch with friends and a feeder calls three times to ask the same question - how soon she's going to get reimbursed. I've already answered her question and explained it as best as I can, but she keeps calling back. Both these incidents happened while I was still volunteering as far as I can recall.

Not to mention the people who like to call or page you at 1 am or 5 am - one of our personal bests was the lady who called one of our committee members at 3 am.

It can be exhausting - you need to be positive, give advice and sometimes play counsellor which can be very draining. Plus you need to do it for a lot of people - I think people sometimes think they are the only ones calling, but they're really not.

So now my phone is off when I'm not working - and I'm almost over feeling guilty about it :)

2 Comments:

Anonymous siew kah said...

Just a suggestion: would it be helpful to have a FAQ (or in your case FR - Frequent Requests) section on the CWS website that outlines what the Society does and what it does not do? Although it is hard to have clear and stable boundaries, an FAQ might give the public a better idea on what to expect.

28/6/05 7:23 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Yes we actually have one written up - we just need to get the website working properly first.

28/6/05 9:17 PM  

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