Frequent Questions and Answers about volunteering with ATOU
What will I be doing as a volunteer?
The ATOU team of volunteers travels to schools throughout the Placer County and the greater Sacramento area bringing its hands-on disability-awareness program to students. The core program, a three hour presentation is powerful, providing and opportunity for students to experience what it might be like to be disabled or just be a little different.
How much time is required to volunteer?
Volunteers are essential to ATOU. As part of each school program, we have 3-5 volunteer speakers and 4-8 volunteer activity instructors. Our presentations are generally on Thursday s and Fridays throughout the school year. The presentations last 3 hours, but depending on travel time, set up and take down, the time may vary. Our schedules are posted on our website. It helps our volunteer coordinator if you can commit to a weekly or even monthly time you can volunteer. There are also opportunities available for office assistance, fundraising, committee members and various other possibilities.
What type of training do volunteers receive?
Volunteers, who want to work with the schools, must first attend and go through a full presentation. There is hands-on-training provided as well as sessions throughout the year. The speakers are provided individual training. ATOU Program Speakers have a unique opportunity to touch the lives of young people and influence attitudes regarding people with disabilities. Volunteers help students to understand the unique challenges and differences among people and come to appreciate and respect rather than devalue or fear them. As speakers share their own personal challenges, feelings, and successes, they can be role models encouraging and inspiring students to strive toward their own personal goals. We can help educate a new generation to include individuals with disabilities fully in their lives, thereby enriching their own lives as well as that of the disabled individual.
What is the minimum age to become a volunteer?
Currently ATOU has volunteers from 9 years old to 85 years old. Anyone under 16 is asked to be accompanied by an adult.
What is the process to becoming a volunteer for A Touch of Understanding?
Volunteers are required to complete the Potential Volunteer Profile. (see attached).
Our insurance company and the schools require fingerprinting of each staff member and volunteer. It is important to do this as soon as possible. Below is information on location of Live Scan services as well as an application sheet, with the appropriate ATOU information completed.
· Contact the agency closest to you
· Complete your part of the application
· Have your fingerprints taken
· Let us know when you have been fingerprinted so we can be watching for the report.
Can I volunteer if I haven’t had much exposure to children?
As long as a volunteer has a respectful attitude it doesn’t take very long to get used to the students. The students are always enthusiastic and anxious to hear about the program. If you are not comfortable being around students, perhaps committee or office assistance would better fit your volunteer needs.
Can I earn service hours?
If you need to fulfill school community service hours you are welcome to participate in ATOU’s scheduled workdays. You must provide the volunteer coordinator with the paperwork you need to verity you were present and earned service hours.
What do you expect from a speaker?
A Touch of Understanding is an educational program. We, therefore, approach the students and staff of the school with the respectful attitude that we may be their first experience with disabilities, and do not expect them to have previous knowledge or understanding of our experiences. ATOU Program Speakers are:
ATOU volunteers always address the children in a friendly, informative way and speakers present a positive outlook on their situation. ATOU speakers are not victims in their own minds and do not portray that image to the group. Instead, ATOU speakers project a positive self-image that demonstrates a “can-do” attitude.
Can you give me a short overview of the ATOU program?
One hour and a half is spent with 3 or more disabled speakers who describe their situation, their disabilities, and how they have learned to achieve their goals. Students are encouraged to interact with these volunteers and ask questions which would often be inappropriate in other settings.
The second session is activity based. The message of the program is introduced by a facilitator, followed by (1) a video of disabled people involved in various sports and everyday activities, and (2) a discussion of things which are easy or difficult for each of us. Students then spend their time at activity stations where they learn to use a wheelchair and white mobility cane, learn to write their names in Braille, perform a task using a mirror to simulate a learning disability, experience the sensation of having autism, and handle braces and artificial limbs. The lessons of the program are summarized by sharing true stories about experiences with people with disabilities.
After the presentation, students are given follow-up materials which enhance the ATOU experience and encourage discussion at home; an Adventure Book, a bookmark, a Braille alphabet card, an autism card (which is designed to remind students of the challenges of autism and to give them appropriate actions to create and maintain a friendship with a child with autism) and a button to wear. Students also bring home a questionnaire, which includes a portion they are to complete, and one for their parents to insure that we have accomplished our mission to encourage acceptance and respect for ALL individuals.
The continuing demand for the ATOU’s disability-awareness program and the consistently positive survey responses from the teachers and administrators convince us that we are achieving our goal of improving the lives of ALL students including students with disabilities. Each year, ATOU receives hundreds of letters of support for the program which demonstrates its success in the community and the Sacramento region. Many of these letters of support are from area students, parents, teachers, principals, and administrators.