If you are interested in volunteering opportunities in the domain of green and or restorative work, this page will help you. It will link to articles on volunteering projects I've seen or heard of. Anyone who has a project is welcome to add it to the feedback form at the bottom of the page to help mobilize volunteers. My site has regular visitors, but it is the sharing of my articles which really gets leverage, so go ahead.
In Cape Town South Africa, restoration work can not isolate itself from the social dimension of what it is to live here, in a huge city with such great economic divides and social problems. I hope to provide information on volunteering opportunities which purpose improvement in the wellbeing and health of communities in Cape Town through the greening process. That green leafy stuff is what I have knowledge about, so I can give of my best.
If you have a volunteering project which brings about urban change but does not necessarily involve plants, you are welcome to share it. Open the gates to your project and give away your volunteering opportunities to those who need them !
In my opinion volunteering opportunities fill a gap that cannot be filled by other forms of work. Everyone knows we need to volunteer for the sake of the greater good and the well being of all who inhabit this planet. I'm only partially referring to that necessity. Included in the greater good is our survival and happiness as a species, but volunteering also plays into market factors, things that are wrong with the status quo of pricing and value, and why this work is unpaid.
In volunteering one can work effectively without choices of action being narrowed down
and controlled by market factors. Someone
with a good idea that benefits a community can get dozens of workers on a project without the
idea being throttled by the cost of labour. The most beneficial ideas may often be hard to commodify and turn into income. There is also the multiplier effect which can be engaged by vast numbers of people doing small things. Taking all this into
account, volunteering often but not always affects social change and has aspects which are revolutionary in a non combative sense.
It is strange the way some of the most necessary work in the world is unpaid, and some of the most necessary benefits to be had for free.
The internet may be flooded by the offers of life coaches who teach the rich and capitalize on the desire for well-being, but it is possible to be well on a very low budget. Being well in the sense of being surrounded by healthy social circumstances, clean air and water, living soil and life purpose cannot really be bought or sold, and yet it can be very connected to money and privilege.
Things which can be bought or sold tend to muscle out the services our ecosystem gives us for free if allowed to work unencumbered. The social ecosystem has parallels.
Our financial systems have till now also placed no value on ecosystem benefits we receive, like rain, oxygen, soil or a healthy social environment. As you can see these are priceless benefits and without them we can die. And yet, they have no value.
When things get made into commodities something essential always goes missing. Land has value, but the soil on it is being destroyed as we speak, depleted of its carbon, its soluble nutrients and washed to the sea in giga tonnes. The service land gives us is being destroyed, because it has no value. Even though land has value, and produces value, and things that can be sold, like crops and water for the city, and housing, the services themselves in soil like fertility, a rich microscopic flora and water retentive deep soil layers, plants which produce oxygen, and clean the air, biodiversity and its safety net...these services are not saleable.
This is where volunteering opportunities come in.
If there is no price on a certain
beneficial service we receive, without which we cannot survive, then work which
is done to ensure this benefit and protect it, is unpaid work. But if
we don't do the work, we will all die. This restorative work that
keeps society, water, oxygen and soil in a state that benefits the
majority of people should be paid, and people are campaigning all the
time and some governments are trying to give these till now free
benefits a value, but until this is completed a lot of restorative
work will be unpaid, and yet it must be done. For example, the social health of a
society is very much dependent on good mothering, but it is not rewarded with cash, so as is so often
the case, the most important resource we can have is provided by free
I cannot help noticing that although
I've been doing the green thing for most of my lifetime now, there is no direct financial reward in being good in that area, in saving the planet as an individual. A lot of digging, sowing seeds and sweat is needed to build the garden. Perhaps because in general, going green does not require rocket science as an idea, because it makes so much sense.
Nor does it need much skill and everyone can do it. It is also
clearly necessary and everyone who has been exposed to its sound arguments wants it. Demand for a healthy environment is high, and yet it is
still undervalued, so the paying careers are thin on the ground. Just as we all want love and appreciation and emotional support and we often just don't get it and are starved, and grow up
malformed in our self image and unable to perform at our best, love and support are free services, and easily given if you just know how. Try and get paid for it and it gets icky, the reality bites and bloody bandages of nursing, or the long long road to a PhD in Psychology, or the copy, paste and replicate canned handshake of online coaching. Green work that actually pays seems equally arid at first.
We often find the best ideas do not get to be realized for a long time after they are born. From protecting nature, to improving the man nature relationship, to improving the lot of humans. On the other hand the worst ideas for the planet and humanity gain leverage through the market, money and profits. Their only goal is to make someone rich, and that is a bad premise for making something widespread. Because volunteering is not contained by market pressure, it often realizes the best ideas. In South Africa we need to work to help everyone have a better life and the profit motive rarely will do this work.
You can also leverage good ideas with careful selection. Sacrifice can be strategic. You can look for ways to make the most impact with limited amounts of time or money, depending what resource you lack. You also need a long vision, because in the short term the problems and evils of the system that has been created are overwhelming, so you need to work on against overwhelming odds and hold on to the vision of a better society. This vision also has no commercial value, though its realization would bring wealth and happiness to so many and levitate our economy.
You can leverage other people's good
ideas too. If you decide to give the time or money, in addition to cleaning up your own
act, promote restorative work by other people. Those with the ideas and knowledge of what is needed to benefit communities can give away these volunteering opportunities to people who need them, very often rich, privileged and disconnected people who need to reconnect to the 'we'.
You can volunteer even
if only occasionally, giving projects your sweat and or time, you can donate to them or help them raise money, if you have more money than time, or even more importantly, just offer supportive discourse that will spread their ideas till they overwhelm the resistance of social inertia. Spread the word, popularize, take part in debates, forums
and referendums that bring about environmental and social benefit. All this activity adds weight and momentum to good causes that the money mainstream, or the law and government budgets rejects or is slow to adopt. If you don't have the time or better ideas, help other people who are doing this
essential work of change, so that they can
carry on serving society. They can't do it all alone they need you behind them.
We can't all afford to dump our jobs and do nothing but volunteer, but a small contribution by everyone will make a difference because of the vast numbers of people contributing. Perhaps the secret to maintaining this work is moderation or balance. Volunteering opportunities that allow participation in society without sacrificing one's livelihood, that is, part time opportunities, are bound to have great traction. It is up to the project manager supplying these volunteering opportunities to work cleverly with people power, optimizing and maximizing its leverage.
But even if you are isolated in your efforts, even if you cannot volunteer and your small contribution is insular and focussed on the domestic, if it swims in the direction of healing society and planet it is working for the greater good. If everyone did these small private tasks, we could change the world. For example you can ensure you drastically reduce the amount you yourself pollute the environment, reduce your carbon footprint, your use of plastics, divert your organic waste streams from the waste water plants and sewerage works into something that promotes the health of soil, air and water. You can look around to find ways you can promote and support other people in your direct contact in fulfilling their destinies and being maximally productive. This can be done with minimal demands on your life if managed well, and there is plenty of advice and wisdom around you can benefit from to do this. There is a volunteering structure for every pocket and every schedule. There is no need to back out because you are busy earning money. Then give to someone who is doing what you want to see done.
Looking after your
immediate environment in this way is not just a feel good sop to
guilt, these actions will make a huge difference if massively applied
across society by every single one of us. So you with your separate
bins and cupboards full of plastic bags, you are not wasting your
time, and you who loves and supports your children, encourages their
talents and social engagement and makes them feel respected and
heard, you are not just a mom you are a revolution. If all moms were like you pain and trauma and sadism and the abuse of power would disappear from society.
Back to the best ideas, they are often ones that never slip neatly into a marketing niche or a career stream. They have no commercial value or saleable end products and yet they make the difference between life or death, hell or the best possible existence on this earth.
They are society changing ideas, not
ideas sold for profit on the back of an exploitative system, and this
is why volunteering is (nearly) always revolutionary.
PS. By the way, on the way, other things will be given to you if you volunteer. It feels good and very healing and empowering to put your shoulder to the wheel of change for other people. It is recommended as part of the recipe for happiness by researchers based at Greater Good, Berkeley. On the way you may find your own way. You may polish and refine your destiny-dar, and perhaps chance upon some kind of related stream or seam that feeds you. In my experience, you will certainly learn a lot and make some new friends, that is part of the territory.
Guerilla House volunteers day. See updates on facebook.
The vegetable gardening project at Steenberg Primary. Approach Davina Doyle.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or stories to share on gardening, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests, natural gardening, do nothing gardening, observations about pests and diseases, foraging, dealing with and using weeds constructively, composting and going offgrid.
Check out our selection of ecological designs printed on T-shirts, accessories and decor items. The designs are about soil regeneration, indigenous Cape wild flowers, wild African animals and other fauna, as well as bible quotes and geometric patterns.
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