AWAG: Conference helps nurture, support volunteers
November 8, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany - Volunteers enjoyed a day dedicated to enhancing their quality of life while gathering a host of valuable tips during workshops at the Hessen Area AWAG Conference Nov. 2.
More than 100 participants spent the day at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center networking, socializing and learning about financial health, signs of post traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injuries, how to cope with parenting alone when a spouse deploys, career education and a host of other topics.
"This is going to be your day and we want you to have a great time," said Joyce Schloesser, Hessen area AWAG representative, in welcoming the attendees.
Comparing volunteers to Soldiers who always take care of their buddies, Susan Kellett-Forsyth, AWAG chairperson, said, "We volunteer for each other. … There's a certain amount of energy that's generated by you as volunteers. Your gifts to yourselves and your community are so valuable to us.
"We are all part of AWAG if we volunteer," Kellett-Forsyth added.
Wiesbaden Army Community Service officer Jan Meert shared tips for being aware of "volunteer burnout" and ways to prevent becoming overwhelmed by the experience.
"In this time of the new fiscal reality in the Army, when funds are going down, we really need the services of volunteers," said Meert, but everyone -- volunteers and managers need to be aware that volunteers are a valuable asset and must be encouraged and fully supported.
"Recognize that there are potential signs of volunteer burnout," Meert said, mentioning a few tell-tale signs such as volunteering for projects to get out of other commitments, forgetting where one lives and considering going back to work to cut back on one's workload.
To prevent burnout, volunteers must make an effort to "reconnect to purpose," "beware of emotionally draining roles," "adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits," and "set boundaries" by learning to say no.
Managers, supervisors and coworkers help improve the overall volunteer experience by being sincere in their praise and appreciation, Meert said, adding, "Without you volunteers the community would be at a loss."
After a solid session of classes and a bountiful lunch, conference participants heard from keynote speaker Col. Bruce T. Crawford, commander of the 5th Signal Command.
"No matter how big and powerful the government gets, and the many services it provides, in can never take the place of volunteers," said Crawford, quoting former President Ronald Reagan.
"It is through your individual contributions and the collective efforts you make as part of the team that a great deal of progress is made in communities like ours," Crawford said, mentioning the nation's observance of National Military Family Appreciation Month which is observed in November. "You truly are a national treasure and the absolute hearbeat of our ability to remain resilient during some of the most difficult times in the storied history of this great nation."
Crawford also discussed fitness, nutrition and childhood obesity.
"The issue of childhood obesity is a national security issue, not just in the context of providing the future leaders in our military, but also the future leaders of this great nation," he said, describing a number of initiatives and ways Soldiers and civilians can mentor youths to guide them toward becoming more physically fit.
AWAG, which stands for Americans Working Around the Globe, holds its Europe-wide conference at Garmisch's Edelweiss Lodge and Resort May 6-10, 2012. For more information about the conference and to make reservations visit www.awagonline.org.