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General Overview of the Organization

Write a Reflection on your Volunteering Activities at Easy Care Gardening.

Community engagement refers to the process of engaging in work collaboratively with different groups of people mostly with the same geographic proximity, special interests or even similar situations addressing the general well-being of those people. Community engagement is a powerful and essential tool because it brings an insight on behavioral and environmental changes with the aim of improving the general health and living standards of community members (Firth et al. 2011, p.556). It works jointly with different partners and coalitions to influence change and resource mobilization, change of relationships among partners and serve as a catalyst for policy and program changes. The purpose of community engagement is to develop and enhance my skills of as a volunteer while contributing to the Easy-Care Gardening’s activities.

The engagement and my voluntary work took place in Easy-Care Gardening Inc. The organization deals with offering subsidized garden services to older people in the community. The main aim of the organization are; to offer a continuous support to the aged to prolong their stay in their own homes through provision of subsidized gardening services, training volunteers about the services offered, and maintenance of liaison with other groups of the community and the government. The organization engages either me and other students or researchers who work as volunteers. The gardening activities are of a varied nature and include services such as weeding, mulching, pruning, tool care, composting and the general cleanliness of gardens to make it look safe and tidy as well as ensuring longer stay of household individuals in their respective homes. Work, health and safety guidelines are followed by all volunteers and staff of the organization.

Every organization encounters challenges while executing its activities towards achieving a common goal or objective (Adeolu & Afolabi, 2010). Easy-Care Gardening company is not an exemption. Some of the challenges encountered are discussed below;

Location

This normally arises in a situation where the client is unable to access the services of the organization. This is due to inefficient transportation system and geographical location of the client. It became difficult for me to offer my services to clients who live in places with poor road infrastructure and geographical locations.

Inadequate services

At times the clients may perceive that the services offered to them are irrelevant or even inappropriate.

Hostility

This is also a challenge I encountered while engaging with the community. At times some clients might be hostile and can easily disapprove and dispute any service the volunteer is willing to offer them Also, some of the aged individuals have a strong conformance and a strong historical belief making it difficult to change their mindsets. This makes them stubborn and unwilling to accept the services offered to them.

Challenges I Encountered

The gap between the young and the older

This can either be racial, language or ethnic gap. For instance, I and the rest of Easy Care Gardening company deals with the provision of services for the well-being of the aged, so at times there exists language barrier between the clients and the us volunteers causing a communication a problem. To solve this, a liaison member of the organization like me should act upon between the two groups to ensure efficient and effective communication (Dhesi, 2010).

Aspects such as sociology, political science, cultural anthropology, organizational development, psychology, social work and other disciplines have all in one way or another contributed to the development and practice of community engagement (Evans, 2011). In addition to this, community engagement is grounded in the principles of community organization such as fairness, empowerment, justice, participation and self-determination. The theories are connected with the activities undertaken during the placement at Easy Care Gardening are discussed below;

The theoretical roots of “empowerment” as a critical element for community engagement can be tracked back to Brazilian educator. Field (2010) argues that empowerment refers to a group-based participatory and a developmental process through which marginalized, aged, minorities and even oppressed groups of people gain greater control of their lives, the living environment, acquire basic rights, resources, achieve important life goals as well as reduced cases of marginalization. According to him, empowerment is a process as well as an outcome of the community engagement. The empowerment process always involves levels such as: organization, individual and the community level.


According to Matron (2008), the empowerment process at the community level often challenges the professional relationships to such communities, emphasis on the partnership aspect as well as collaboration rather than a top-down approach. This theory emphasizes that no entity should place its powers on a community and act for self-interest. In addition to this, those offering the services to the community should do so for the general benefit of the particular group of people in that community without personal interests. The activities undertaken at the Easy Care Gardening embraced the empowerment principle in that all the gardening services offered to the aged individuals were to improve their general health and living conditions to ensure a prolonged stay in their respective homes.

According to Firth, Maye & Pearson (2011), culture is a complex integrated system of thought and behavior shared by a group of people and its pattern enables us to understand the meanings that people attach to specific facts and observations. Furthermore, culture shapes the community engagement process. However, for an engagement to be successful, the aspects of culture should be really understood. It is however necessary for researchers to clearly understand the cultures of different groups of people or even institutions, establish relationships as well as building trust and respect with them. Culture influences beliefs and perceptions of a specific group of people towards certain occurrences.

Theoretical Ways of Understanding Community Engagement

Working with the Easy-Care Gardening company involved interaction with individuals from different cultural groups. For such engagement to be successful, it is essential for the parties involved to fully understand the other persons’ culture and how it shapes their beliefs. It was easier and smooth offering services to the clients after understanding their culture aspects. For instance, while doing weeding, some plants were perceived to be weeds and others were not depending on the community’s culture.

Community engagement can also be understood well through the social perspective theory. This theory encompasses the social nature of the community involved. The activities undertaken at the Easy Care Gardening involved a direct engagement with the aged or the older individuals. While doing activities such as weeding, pruning and general cleanliness in their home places, an individual socializes with them. This theory is developed when an organization links with other individuals through social networks. It is necessary to understand the social structure of an organization for an individual to develop an engagement plan. For instance, tracing social ties among individuals may help engagement leaders to identify a community’s leadership, understand the behavior patterns, identifying high-risk groups as well as strengthening its networks (Gilchrist, 2009).

The Easy-Care Gardening organization needs to work on enlarging its scope for it to become popular to many people. It should also raise the awareness of the services they offer and explore ways in which communities can be involved in influencing them. Moreover, I and the rest of the volunteers should take steps on eliminating communication barriers such as use of pictorial minutes. Establish and facilitate community working groups with a leader to facilitate the engagement process (Hardcastle, Powers & Wenocur, 2004).

The placement at Easy Care Gardening organization is of great importance as it influences my values, assumptions and attitudes as a student. It enables me to gain knowledge and broaden my understanding on respective field studies. I will be in a position to understand the role of community engagement and involvement as well as develop my career. The placement exposes me as the student to various projects and programs undertaken by different organizations and with that an individual will be able to apply findings disseminated from such projects to other opportunities.

Community engagement is also important because it involves learning through practicality, thus making it easier for me to learn through practical as well as theoretical learning. It gives a deep insight and correlation between the theoretical and practical aspects of learning. Also, community engagement placement is important to me as it involves various study designs, representations, tools, communication and data collection techniques and analysis. This helps me in enhancing the learning process as well as gain experience in using such equipment and tools (Linda & Bhishna, 2015).


Working at the Easy-Care Gardening organization enabled me to learn about teamwork and its importance. Teamwork and cooperation is a strong work ethic in any organization. Individuals who recognize the usefulness of teamwork will put an extensive amount of effort by working well with others. Mostly I respect the other volunteers and relate well with the clients and in a polite manner (Schreiner, 2018). Most of the activities carried out in the community involve a group of stupendous and dedicated people who work together to ensure efficient and quality delivery of services to the elderly.

In addition, community engagement is important to me because it offers teachings on reliability. For instance, the activities I undertook and the services offered followed a timely schedule to ensure continuity and smooth running of the organizational processes as well as client satisfaction. It enables me to learn different values of life such as respect to the client’s privacy and non-disclosure of information or data to third parties or even other clients. There are also training sessions and meetings held in the organization which enhance knowledge and understanding of community engagement. Such placements are also helpful in that I gain knowledge and an insight of maintaining garden tools to maximize the use and prolong the life of the tools and equipment while handling general gardening activities (Patience, Alison & David, 2009).

Community engagement placements are important as they enable me to gain adequate skills in my various levels of specialization. Organizations dealing with community engagement gives me an opportunity to train and increase my knowledge. It also helps me to gain various skills in the work environment that are relevant to their career growth and development. As part of the training process, one is exposed to different aspects and functions of the business climate. Also, they give me an opportunity to learn, through practice, the concepts that have been learned theoretically. The placement at the Easy-Care Gardening company enabled me to gain several skills as discussed below;

Teamwork

The work and services are offered by a group of dedicated volunteers with stupendous efforts combined. Therefore, this enables me to embrace teamwork while working with others towards achieving a common goal or objective timely.

Respect

Working at the Easy-Care Gardening involves dealing with different groups of people, and more specific the elderly. These people have diverse cultures, thus enabling me to learn different values of life such as respect to the client’s privacy and non-disclosure of information or data.

Socializing skills

The engagement with the elderly exposed me to different groups of people. Responsibility; it is through such placements that I give back to the community. Another important aspect of community engagement is social responsibility.

Conclusion

Community engagement programs unite different groups of people be it the older, young, minority or even the disabled one. Working in the Easy-Care Gardening enables me as a student to freely interact with the older people and enable them to learn the importance of community and stewardship. They also get to see the difference and extend to which our voluntary work can impact the life of the elderly.

The work of a volunteer in the organization is to ensure a clean and healthy living environment to prolong the life of the aged. I got to learn about healthy living conditions and other healthy safety issues for practice in their real life’s. This in turn helps reduce cases of illnesses caused by living in unhealthy environments. It is through such placements that I give back to the community.

Adeolu O. A. & Afolabi E. O., 2010. CSR and sustainable community development in Nigeria: WAPCO, a case from the cement industry. Social Responsibility Journal, 6(4), pp. 23-33.

Dhesi, A., 2010. Diaspora, social entrepreneurs and community development. International Journal of Social Economics, 37(9), pp. 703-716.

Evans, D. J. R., 2011. Promoting knowledge and understanding in society: Training our students for effective communication. Havard Business Review, 3(1), pp. 35-46.

Field, P. J., 2010. CornerHouse ? a mental health community development hub. Mental Health and Social Inclusion, 14(4), pp. 7-12.

Firth C., Maye D. & Pearson D., 2011. Developing “Community “in Community Gardens. Local Environment, 16(6), pp. 555-568.

Gilchrist, A., 2009. Networking for Community Development (Chapter 6). s.l.:Emerald Publishing Group.

Hardcastle B., Powers C. & Wenocur V., 2004. Theory-based, Model-based Community Practice. In: Community Practice: Theories and Skills for Social Workers. 2 ed. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 33-60.

Linda M. T. & Bhishna C. B., 2015. Sustainable campus: engaging the community in sustainability. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 16(1), pp. 57-71.

Maimunah I., Siti N. A. & Roziah M. R., 2015. Community as stakeholder of the corporate social responsibility programme in Malaysia: outcomes in community development. Social Responsibility Journal, 11(1), pp. 109-130.

Matron, K. I., 2008. Empowering community settings: Agents of Individual Development, Community Betterment, and Positive Social Change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 41(1), pp. 4-21.

Patience F. S., Alison F. G. & David D. M., 2009. In the driving seat: community development and social inclusion. A Life in the Day, 13(1), pp. 16-19.

Patricia C. B., Mieke B. B., Loek N. & Robert?Jan S., 2012. Community development in the school workplace. International Journal of Educational Management, 26(4), pp. 403-418.

Rothman, J., 1995. Approaches to Community Development intervention. In: Strategies of Commnity Intervention. 5 ed. Illinois: Peacock, pp. 26-63.

Schreiner, E., 2018. Five Characteristics of a Good Work Ethic. [Online]
Available at: https://smallbusiness.chron.com/five-characteristics-good-work-ethic-10382.html
[Accessed 21 May 2018].

Stiglitz, J., 2010. A New view of society. s.l.:Emerald Publishing Group.

Svetlana K. C. & O'Laocha E., 2016. The logic of projects and the ideal of community development: Social good, participation and the ethics of knowing. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 9(3), pp. 546-561.

Twelvetrees, A., 2008. Introduction: What is Community work?. In: Community Work. 4 ed. Basingstock, England: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-18.

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