One of Winrock’s volunteer recruiters recently retired after 26 years with our organization. Johnnie spent 16 of those years as a volunteer recruiter (and much more!) with our Volunteer Technical Assistance team. Below, she reflects on life as a recruiter and the immeasurable connections she has made with so many volunteers over the years.
As I close the door after 26 years at Winrock International and turn the final page to this chapter in my life as a recruiter for the past 16 years for the Volunteer Technical Assistance Unit and the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program, I have so many wonderful memories of people and events that I will always hold dear and forever cherish. I’ve had the opportunity and been honored to become acquainted with and work with so many wonderful people. I’ve learned so much over the years from my colleagues and mentors, and from volunteers who shared their time, expertise, knowledge, and experiences not only with the field staff and beneficiaries on the other side of the world, but with me, which made me feel like a vital part of the team and in the circle of people who have an incredible, selfless, seemingly tireless love and passion for people and to help them improve their livelihoods. That circle is composed of Winrock’s VTA director and managers who are phenomenal individuals who develop and manage the programs; the field staff who work on the ground to identify hosts and develop volunteer assignments; the other recruiters that I’ve shared the position with, who have the awesome task to identify and talk/persuade/recruit the best volunteer that fits the assignment to go to places that they’ve never heard of and do things they’ve never thought or dreamed of; and those awesome volunteers that I have developed a personal relationship and bond with through the many hours of recruitment and mobilization yet rarely had the opportunity to meet in person.
I have the highest respect and admiration for every volunteer that I’ve worked with, who return with that heartfelt gratitude and humility that they received more than they contributed and were the ones whose lives were changed, never to be the same. And then to learn the incredible numbers of individuals that have been impacted is icing on the cake. Every volunteer has a voice that goes with the name and a memory in my mind and heart that will be cherished throughout the years.
Everyone in the circle is a vital part of the success of the program and the assignments. Being a recruiter requires a devotion to the program and to each volunteer, that you will be there for the volunteer, be their lifeline to home and family, be there to be sure that they are briefed and feel as comfortable about the assignment as one can which means being available to that volunteer 24/7 while they are traveling, handling any emergency to the best of your ability if one occurs, never turning a deaf ear to the volunteer, and that’s what makes this personal, not just a job. I’m forever thankful that I have experienced that over and over through these years.
I will always be grateful to Winrock and to the VTA staff for giving me the opportunity to learn and experience more than I ever dreamed possible, and to all the volunteers who have been an inspiration to me, touched my life with their kindness, generosity, and sharing their stories. I’m so happy that I’ve been a part of this awesome world of Winrock volunteerism, but there is still so much more to do. I wish the very best to all of you who will continue the tremendous, much needed work in the days and years to come.