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  • Laila Manie and Sumaya Habib

Call 2 Care and the Virtual Volunteering Journey

How Call 2 Care is breaking boundaries with virtual volunteering

From the mountains of eSwatini, the metropolitans of Johannesburg and Cape Town, the warm, golden coast of Durban and many more locations across Southern Africa, Call 2 Care’s virtual volunteers are now a team of more than 45 young, inspiring and dynamic individuals who are giving back by contributing to the success of Call 2 Care’s projects. Corporate collaboration, the power of social media, the unsung heroes of background work, avid creative writers, website support being done from mobile phones and enough Google meetings to fill the week - Call 2 Care is breaking boundaries by presenting virtual volunteer opportunities and putting the skills of volunteers to work in exciting ways. Virtual - the buzzword in a COVID-19 world, Call 2 Care has become part of redefining ‘virtual’ and what it means in terms of volunteering. The opportunity to remotely/virtually volunteer is one of the leading benefits noted by Call 2 Care’s volunteers and the in house title for volunteers of this nature is; remote volunteer. Giving back to those in need has never been one-dimensional but now, with the pandemic keeping people in doors and accelerating the needs of under-resourced communities, many people are seeking ways to help from the comfort and safety of their homes and most notably among Call 2 Care’s volunteers - to feel a sense of purpose.

Virtual volunteering includes online support and campaigns, much like this article, to market ways to get involved and explore the inside scoop on current and future projects. Social media has made it possible for connections that are not only physical and so, Call 2 Care’s volunteers are invested in the success of projects despite not being physically present. The iGardi Club at Thembani Primary School or the newly launched Spekboom for Climate Change are examples of projects wherein Call 2 Care’s virtual volunteers are directly linked to success and implementation. Social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn are now tools not only for connection but also to incite social change. Call 2 Care’s mission is at the heart of all volunteer work - improving lives through educational outreach projects and socially conscious events. Social media allows for the sharing of images and videos to volunteers across the country and brings the spirit of giving back to the palm of your hands.

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Paint & Sip Virtual Event

Globally, the United Nations launched a Virtual Volunteering Service in January 2020 to connect organizations across the world with remote volunteers to assist in the success of outreach projects. What makes Call 2 Care unique in their COVID-19 response to volunteering is the avenue for collaboration with corporates and other non-profit/non-governmental organizations. These collaborations allow for the delivery and success of projects as well as the implementation of sustainable, positive change in communities. Call 2 Care currently consists of fourteen different departments that play an integral role in advancing Call 2 Care’s goals and meeting the needs of beneficiaries.

Fourteen & forty-seven: Call 2 Care’s golden numbers

With fourteen departments and an active team of forty-seven remote volunteers, the Call 2 Care family is quickly growing and the amount of support available to initiatives and projects is gaining momentum faster than Call 2 Care had anticipated. The remote volunteering opportunities present volunteer roles that encourage active participation as well as the importance of choice. What makes Call 2 Care’s volunteer programme unique is that volunteers are allowed to choose which initiatives and projects they would like to support. This results in volunteers who are well-aligned with what every department at Call 2 Care requires of them and volunteer work is flexible enough so that it considers the available time volunteers are willing to offer Call 2 Care. By structuring a volunteer programme that is volunteer-centred, volunteers are able to offer their best work and skills. In order for volunteering to be successful for the volunteer themselves and for the beneficiary, volunteers who are investing time into underserved communities should be investing from a positive space and mindset and take into account that caring for themselves is in turn caring for the projects they support and believe in. Giving back to those in need should never be obligated, but rather a task that leads with the heart.

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Call 2 Care volunteers

Currently, all forty-seven heart-lead volunteers at Call 2 Care are divided into the following departments which provide support for Call 2 Care from various angles. These departments include; social media support, blogging support, volunteer management, newsletter support, events management, collaboration with other NGOs, creating proposals for new beneficiaries and website support. Apart from broad support of this nature, there are volunteers at Call 2 Care which are currently assisting and supporting specific projects such as the iGardi framework support (support for Call 2 Care’s iGardi Club), Paint & Sip, SHINE Trust (a current work-in-progress collaboration with Call 2 Care and the SHINE Trust), the Philile Project and most recently, Spekboom for Climate Change. With support for these projects, Call 2 Care is anticipating much success in the near future as volunteers become geared up to see projects implemented and beneficiaries being at the receiving end of positive change. The Spekboom for Climate Change initiative has placed Call 2 Care among the NGOs who value the importance of the planet and its future and so, have attracted eco-warriors as part of its volunteer programme. By making sure that socially conscious events and educational outreach projects continue to take place, an initiative to tackle climate change aligns deeply with Call 2 Care’s mission.

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Call 2 Care’s Walk celebrating Youth Day 2021 in Cape Town with a few Cape Town based volunteers.

Apart from meeting the needs of beneficiaries and seeking to be part of the fight against climate change, Call 2 Care’s remote volunteer programme also provides opportunities for work-readiness and encourages volunteers to kickstart projects and take the lead on many support fronts. On many university and job application forms, there is always a section that asks about volunteer experience or community involvement and Call 2 Care is also focused on helping volunteers to be distinguished from other applicants.

Volunteering and Careers: What’s the link?

Work readiness, according to the Western Cape Government, has always been understood by employers to be provided by educational institutions. However, this is simply not the case. A tertiary education of any level does not explore work development well enough and ‘’the leading challenge raised by employers is the lack of ‘’soft’’ skills’’ (Western Cape Government). Soft skills include communication, the ability to work in a team, conflict resolution and writing, among others. At Call 2 Care, opportunities to explore soft skills such as working in a team are immediately required from volunteers. As volunteers branch off into various departments, working with others is important for the success of any project - even a social media post that is organized and published by more than one person would require volunteers to engage their people skills. Weekly or monthly virtual meetings are hosted by Call 2 Care wherein volunteers communicate their current projects, ideas and have an opportunity to connect with fellow volunteers. ‘’Work readiness is essentially a work resilience that you build as you step out of high school and into the study and work spheres’’ (FUNDI Connect). As the staggering unemployment rate in South Africa is one of Bloomberg’s highest ranking unemployment rates for the first quarter of 2021, Call 2 Care invites youth, ages 18 - 35 to volunteer as a means to explore skills and work-readiness.

Volunteering alongside a team of people presents the opportunity to understand team dynamics that exist within a job as well as understanding the importance of collaboration which may be required in many fields and across numerous job sectors, if not all. By hosting virtual meetings, engaging social media support and creating an online presence, Call 2 Care upskills volunteers to become technologically savvy by employing programmes such as Wix to publish articles and a range of Google products to make for efficient and successful collaboration within teams. Teaching volunteers about tech programmes they have not encountered before as well as encouraging creative agency and flexibility, Call 2 Care positions itself as an NGO dedicated to the upskilling of those involved in its success.

Currently, Call 2 Care boasts a number of volunteers who are psychology students, and psychology postgraduates, who are volunteering as a means for application improvement and work-readiness on their path toward masters studies in psychology. Volunteering is not a requirement to apply for masters programmes in psychology but it does enable applicants to distinguish their CV’s through the experience gained in working with people and the importance of being involved with one’s community. People skills are an important part of work-readiness as soft skills continue to gain much importance alongside degrees, certificates and industry experience. Regarding social media and website support, Call 2 Care presents opportunities for those interested in courses like Information Technology (IT) or Social Media Management to gain industry experience and explore the intricacies of an online presence such as search engine optimization (SEO) and understanding social media analytics. Most recently, Call 2 Care has welcomed a volunteer who is a law graduate, candidate attorney and awaiting attorney admission to the High Court of South Africa, with an interest in active citizenship which involves the philosophy that members of society should be actively participating in the changes they want for their communities. Although involvement with an organization is not a requirement for success in the field of law, through volunteering with Call 2 Care, this law graduate has been able to gain a front row seat into the needs of underserved communities and to be part of a process to create change.

Call 2 Care is invested in endorsing volunteers by assisting with university and job applications, preparing volunteers for the workforce as well as publicly endorsing volunteers on LinkedIn. Call 2 Care is also focused on presenting opportunities for jobs, online seminars and much more, as well as volunteers sharing opportunities with each other. This is one of the many ways in which Call 2 Care volunteers are able to connect and create a professional, diverse network. However, volunteering is not only about professional impact and among Call 2 Care volunteers, the personal advantages of volunteering was the leading benefit that translated into their loyalty and commitment to Call 2 Care.

The Volunteer Journey and Personal Impact

Call 2 Care welcomes volunteers from all walks of life who bring to the organization their varying talents, skills and ideas with the common purpose of community outreach and giving back to those in need. Call 2 Care embodies the age old saying; charity begins at home. In a literal sense, Call 2 Care allows volunteers to start their ‘give-back’ journey from the comfort of their own home, no matter how remote. Volunteers are also given the freedom to contribute in a way that makes use of their unique abilities, whether that is blog writing or social media and project management.

But why would anyone get involved in this type of volunteering? Why not donate money or express your philanthropic aspirations in some other, less time-consuming way? Although donating funds is important and has its place in the humanitarian field, it can be a very detached experience. Giving of one’s time and effort through active volunteering allows for a greater interaction with the cause, creates a connection between you and the people that you help and generates interesting engagement with like-minded individuals. Additionally, helping others can present an opportunity for introspection and self-discovery. Call 2 Care creates a sense of comradery, allows a deep engagement between different people and fosters an environment in which active volunteering thrives.

Call 2 Care is attractive to volunteers because, as an organization, it has an unwavering belief in its objectives, offers a number of successful and continuous projects to choose from and has approachable and friendly members that immediately make one feel part of the team. The friendly nature of all those involved at Call 2 Care was one of the many additional comments made by volunteers when they were tasked with answering a set of eleven questions on their volunteer experience with Call 2 Care. When engaging with current volunteers, asking controlled questions about what volunteers most value and enjoy about their role(s) at Call 2 care, the answer most provided by volunteers was that they were assigned roles that aligned with their interests and their skills. By being involved in projects that they care about and are uniquely skilled for, volunteers worked even harder to fulfil their tasks and it became a labour of love. Their participation in the organization offered volunteers a sense of individual purpose as well as feeling that they were part of a larger community.

No matter the type of involvement, the overarching message from Call 2 Care volunteers was that their actions directly led to meaningful change in underserved communities and this was integral to maintaining their volunteering journey with Call 2 Care. Call 2 Care’s volunteer experience is, according to volunteer feedback, so positive that instead of volunteers questioning their contribution with the internal question of ‘’am I doing enough?’’ that question becomes ‘’what else can I do’’? It is with this kind of volunteer experience that the amount of remote volunteers interested in offering their time to Call 2 Care has continued to increase.

The Present and Future of Call 2 Care’s Remote Volunteering Programme

Call 2 Care has a mission of inspiring volunteers who become loyal and resourceful contributors to Call 2 Care’s success. The integral role of volunteers can never be more emphasised than right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19, which has at many times presented nearly insurmountable odds across the globe and locally has poured over into every South African household - highlighting the inequalities that exist within our country. In these unprecedented times, the urge for people to provide relief or contribute to those who are in need has been exponentially heightened. However, the unique nature of this pandemic has left people with little and created physical and complex barriers to providing support, further isolating those who are willing and able to help. As Call 2 Care offers remote volunteering - boundaries are being broken in the face of these adversities.

Remote volunteering is an emerging initiative at Call 2 Care and has, in its short time, been very successful in using virtual platforms to connect and encourage volunteers, as well as to provide volunteers access to the many ongoing projects Call 2 Care is part of. Although this initiative started as a means to overcome barriers created by COVID-19, Call 2 Care plans to use this virtual format to adapt its current structure.

Currently volunteering at Call 2 Care is organized around the skill or ability that an individual has to offer, and which department that skill could best be used. The suggested new structure shifts volunteer roles from skill orientated to initiative focused. This means that instead of volunteers being isolated to their task(s) that form part of one of the many initiatives, volunteers will instead be able to engage with the specific initiative as a whole and see all the ‘’moving parts’’ of the process. This will add more context to the tasks of volunteers and is intended to create a greater sense of fulfilment. This structural change will still appeal to the strengths of virtual volunteers but within a specific initiative. Furthermore, the current meetings will be restructured in a way that all volunteers at Call 2 Care can have a bird’s eye view of the virtual operations happening in a particular initiative. This new structure, facilitated by the virtual platforms, will provide volunteers with deeper insight as to where the initiatives are heading and what impact they are making in the lives of beneficiaries. These changes will make volunteering a more efficient and fruitful experience for Call 2 Care’s ever-growing volunteer team.

Most recently, Call 2 Care launched the Spekboom for Climate Change initiative. This project began as an idea for Call 2 Care to be part of the fight against climate change and aligns with Call 2 Care’s mission to be socially conscious. Spekboom has the potential to battle climate change by naturally reducing carbon emissions. Spekboom for Climate Change is focused on educating communities about their carbon footprint. Through the incredible efforts of the dedicated volunteers at every stage of the process, from research and planning to implementation, the Spekboom for Climate Change project came to life.

The public is encouraged to be part of this important initiative once it is fully implemented by purchasing a Spekboom as a gift or donating a Spekboom to Call 2 Care which will be planted in a community in need.

Spekboom will be propagated at the Gogo’s Garden where it will be sold to Call 2 Care. The Gogo’s Garden is a Call 2 Care initiative that sees elderly women provide and sell fresh produce in the surrounding community of Gugulethu. Spekboom for Climate Change is closely linked to economic upliftment whilst positioning itself as a warrior in the fight against climate change. If initiatives like this one interest you, Call 2 Care is currently recruiting volunteers for its various departments. If you are aged between 18 - 35 and have a passion for volunteering, you can apply to be part of the Call 2 Care team. Alternatively, you can donate to Call 2 Care where a small amount of R25 monthly will contribute to feeding one person daily from Call 2 Care’s vegetable gardens. Donating to Call 2 Care is available via SnapScan and GivenGain.

Call 2 Care’s mission to improve lives through educational outreach projects and socially conscious events has come to adapt many facets and various avenues to contribute to those in need. Call 2 Care invites youth to be part of the process to create change and implement sustainable, uplifting and educational projects to continue improving lives.


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