The Big Ideas in Social Change for 2014 column in the New York Times changed the way we talk about OpenDoors Teamleaders.  Author Tina Rosenberg describes “Task-Shifting” as an alternative way that volunteers can learn to fill a need in the community without the full degree or training that specialists usually receive. The World Health Organization describes task shifting as making efficient use of available human resources to quickly increase capacity while training and retention programs are being expanded.

OpenDoors task-shifts by recruiting, training and supporting volunteer TeamLeaders who act as lay social workers.   These TeamLeader relationships are uniquely close because they develop freely, without professional distance.  As TeamLeader Denise Turner said,  “The best thing about OpenDoors is that we’ve become such good friends.  Like extended family.”  We find that it is not necessary to have a degree in social work in order to identify and help remove students and their families’ barriers to success.

With training and support, OpenDoors volunteer TeamLeaders assess the strengths and needs of children and families and then experienced staff and volunteer social workers act as a nexus for community resources.  All of you in our greater OpenDoors community provide the in-kind contributions and funding to help fill these gaps.  Our schools desperately need more social workers and any effective way we can help children and their families by supplementing and supporting these critical staff people is a gift to our shared community.

Like many other forms of task-shifting, this strategy is a money-saver benefiting everyone.   Volunteers stretch the impact that paid professionals can make. The real and trusting relationships OpenDoors Teamleaders have with their students and families ensure that we know exactly what is needed, when, and why.  This allows for preventive services, which, as Rosenberg points out, “almost always results in significant savings later”.

Please invest in local children and their families this holiday season by giving a gift to OpenDoors, and break the cycle of poverty for generations to come!

By Jennifer Ramming