Report on Volunteer Training Programme Workshop

Jan 20 2007
{mosimage} Reported by Kerul Patel

As the volunteers converged at the venue little before 10am, we were all given handouts & name tags. The suspense of what was to take place for the rest of the day only grew with each hand-out folder’s containing a single playing card. If I were a cat, curiosity would have got the better of me. Eats and snacks were a great time to mingle with other volunteers and catch up on lost time.
The work shop started with Amma briefly calming everyone’s nerves by giving a run-down on what was to take place for the rest of the day. We were segregated in 4 different teams based on the color of our name tags; namely the blue, yellow, red and orange teams.


While each volunteer had one playing card in his/her folder; there was a corresponding matching card placed in someone else’s folder. Obviously no one person knew who else had the same card. The exercise was to match the two persons having the same playing card. The two were given 10 minutes to introduce themselves and subsequently they were to introduce the new friend to the whole group. This was a fantastic exercise, because it gave an opportunity to the whole group to know more, about the volunteers than they’d already known. There were a few “unknowns” revealed in this speed-introduction exercise that quite a few didn’t know. To name a few:-

Sujeesh although running a marketing organization is a mechanical engineer
Sharon although currently working for TMF Mumbai is studying law
Dr. Jude worked at the very hospital the work shop was being held (no wonder he felt comfortable and at ease)
Ashok possesses presentation skills by introducing friend Nirmesh


Nirmish had a fantastic idea few months back at an earlier FOM meeting at Point Blank office. Idea was for volunteers to pool in what ever resources they could (financial and/or otherwise) to help other under-privileged patients. The focus would be to help patients who are required to do the bone marrow test and are short on the resources. The presentation gave complete information on how the project would function. TMF Mumbai would determine the needy and appropriate resources would be allocated. It was also decided to open a trust in due course time. There were ready volunteers for the project “Adopt a Max Friend”. Technically, the project took off before the end of the volunteer training work shop.


Subsequently, the groups went into brain-storming on the first of the three topics intended to be covered during the course of the day.

After about 10 minutes, each group members presented to the others their points of discussion. Across the groups, there were some points that were common, some that were unique, and yet others that simply could not be neglected no matter how simple or obscure they may have sounded. Thereafter, Amma took down relevant points from across the four groups that gave consolidated reasons for team members to volunteer.

The points that came across the various groups were:

• Zeal / Desire to give back to society
• Urge to foster a Positive Attitude
• Ability to provide Financial Assistance to deserving patients
• Be a resource person and provide information / create awareness
• Provide guidance to others in Professional areas
• Achieve inner peace through the joy of connecting with people
• Worthwhile utilization of time
• Widen our circle of friends
• Vehicle for self – learning

Lunch was excellent!!! Not only was the food fantastic, it also gave time for all the groups to get together and catch up with each other.


Post lunch, the group again brain-stormed the second of the 3 topics. There are two aspects of Coping with Diagnosis. Coping with diagnosis as a patient and Coping with Diagnosis as a care-giver. You simply cannot ignore either side. Two of the four teams were assigned to brain-storm the topic as patients, while the other two teams discussed as care-givers. Which team had more patients’ vis-à-vis care-givers was irrelevant. For example; it was great for me being a patient to come up with points as a care-giver. As a patient, it gave me a good understanding as to what the care-giver goes through during diagnosis. Relevant points from across the four groups were as follows:-

As a patient

• Acceptance of diagnosis and decision to take it forward as a challenge
• How do I let my family know – Concern for family
• Treatment options available
• Concerns about pain and side effects of treatment
• Acceptance by society / in professional areas

As a care giver / family member

• Why my family
• Assure patient of family’s commitment
• Desire to obtain as much information on disease and survivor’s experiences
• Fear of social stigma
• Fear and insecurity about the future
• How to break the news
• Accessibility of other resources

By now if there were any tired souls, they were re-energized with a tea break!!!


Even after binging on lunch, the group member’s enthusiasm was as high as it could be. The last topic on Communication skills covered was an equally important aspect of volunteer’s training work shop. Effective communication skills; is an integral quality of a good volunteer. Relevant points from across the four groups that were consolidated were as follows:

• Be a good listener
• Possess non judgmental attitude
• Be aware and possess basic knowledge of content of communication
• Clarity of thought and ability to be focused
• Sensitivity to Cultural and social issues
• Empathy
• Recognize importance of non verbal communication / touch
• Appearance and grooming
• To elicit desired response to complete cycle of communication


If all the volunteers thought the best was over we were all wrong. On Nirmesh’s request, Amma gave us her insights on over 20+ years of valuable experience in the field. It’s never easy to be a volunteer. To quote Amma, “it’s important to smile with one’s eyes”. That statement was a summary of a thousand lines. What she meant was that the desire to volunteer must come from within. It must come straight from the heart.

Although the texts say that one should be detached from patients, it’s very difficult to put it in practice.

In volunteering there is joy and sorrow. There cannot be one without the other. It’s ok to cry.