Unit Life

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Philosophy and Commitment: In most cases, a commitment to MVSA is a commitment to live communally in a household with other volunteers. Living in community requires tolerance, flexibility and a willingness to work at maintaining healthy relationships. Living in community also provides opportunities for rich fellowship and fun. Unit members share in household work and activities, and meet regularly with the household for Unit meetings and prayer or study sessions.

Volunteers commit themselves to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. As such they are accountable to God, to the church, and to fellow volunteers with whom they live and work. Volunteers are called upon to show sensitive regard for the moral, social and religious values of others. At stake is the calling and style of living volunteers represent, the church they serve, and the witness of the Christian gospel.

Responsible Behaviour: MVSA participants represent their Unit, their host congregation, their home congregation, and the MVSA program in the larger community.  MVSA participants are expected to make a good-faith effort to conduct themselves in a manner that respects the healthand well-being of others, themselves, and the environment.  They are expected to be open to counsel regarding what is perceived as addictive or emotionally unhealthy behaviour.

Itis expected that participants will:

  • Reflect Christ-like standards in their personal and professional conduct.
  • Nurture trust, and maintain and restore right relationships in the communities where they live and serve.
  • Demonstrate mutual respect and integrity in sharing and fulfilling their responsibilities.
  • Respect and celebrate diversity of backgrounds and nurture acceptance in the Christian Community.
  • Respect the earth and their health in the stewardship of their resources. 
  • Conduct themselves in ways and in settings which will not harm their witness, service, or personal health.
  • Reserve sexual intimacy for the marriage covenant.
  • Strive to be free from lies, manipulation and deceit, keep their promises, and be trustworthy in managing resources.

Disregard for any of the above stated expectations will result in discipline, and may result in dismissal from the program.

Relationship to Supporting Churches: Volunteers are encouraged to worship at the Sponsoring Congregation.  Sunday morning worship services are important, but they are not the total life of the church.  Volunteers are encouraged to become involved in educational programs of the church, music and worship leadership, or other areas of ministry.  Volunteers should determine their priorities for service carefully in conjunction with both the Unit and Local Leadership.  If active participation and worship with the sponsoring congregation is required, the volunteer will be informed of this in the placement exploration process. 

Associate Members: MVSA units occasionally welcome people who are not full-time volunteers.  These may be students or people with regular jobs in the community.  Associate membersare expected to be fully involved in the life the unit.  They will pay a monthly living fee to the Unit for food and housing costs, but do not receive the monthly stipend.  This type of arrangement must be approved by current Unit members and the local Leadership, and a Covenant will be signed with the Associate Member.  No more than 50% of the household will consist of Associate Members.

VS’ersfrom other programs such as the International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP) may be invited to live in the Unit. They are full members of the Unit and will be supervised in a manner consistent with the regular operation of the MVSAhouse.

Basic Needs: Sponsoring congregations provide for the basic needs of each volunteer: a fully furnished home, food, transportation, basic medical coverage, bedding, etc.  Unit funds are used to purchase shared personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.  Household members plan together for the wise and frugal use of money and supplies. Knowledge about conservation, ecology, health, and justice will be reflected in responsible decisions and habits. A voluntary service lifestyle is one of simplicity in which one is free from the baggage of material possessions. Volunteers will have their own bedroom unless sharing has been agreed to in the application process.

Volunteers provide their own clothes which should be suitable for the work they will do and the communities in which they live. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to keep to a minimum the number of other personal items they bring to their assignments.  Appliances, furniture, and large decorative items are not appropriate.  It is understood that volunteers are fully responsible for their own computers, cell phones, devices,  cameras, etc. 

Leave: If a volunteer is temporarily unable to perform their work due to an illness/emergency in their immediate family, they may request an emergency leave of up to one month.  Volunteers onemergency leave will be paid their regular personal allowance.

In the event of a death in the immediate family (parent, grandparent, sibling,children), the Unit will cover travel costs for the funeral.  Families and the volunteer’s home congregation are encouraged to help with these costs as well.

 

When a volunteer needs to be away for personal reasons, a non-emergency leave may be granted for up to 30 days without allowance after conversation with the Placement Agency and Local Leadership.

 

Volunteers who serve with MVSA through other agencies such as Christliche Dienste and EIRENE will adhere to the leave policies for their supporting organization.

 

Media:  Each unit receives the Canadian Mennonite.  In addition the Unit house has full internet services so volunteers can stay in touch with family and friends, and with local, national, and international news. 

 

Meetings:  each unit is encouraged to have weekly meetings that all volunteers attend.  The quality and vitality of Unit life depends upon these meetings.  Agenda may include group and individual concerns, Bible study, discussion of faith issues, housekeeping matters, and administrative problems.  

 

There will also be monthly meetings between Local Leadership and the Unit. These meetings will contain “how is it going?” sessions, discussion of Unit house issues, future planning, and Unit relationships with community organizations and the congregation.  Minutes will be kept of these meetings.

 

Pets:  Because of varying personal preferences and allergies, pets are not to be kept in Unit households.

Visitors: Family and friends are encouraged to visit volunteers. All visits must be approved by the Unit household.  Visits are generally limited to a maximum of three days.  The Unit household and Local Leadership may approve longer visits if family and friends are travelling from long distances.  Lodging and meal arrangements should be worked out according to available space in the household, with care taken to avoid having too many visitors at one time.  Visitors who stay in the household are invited to take an active part in household life, and to make a voluntary financial contribution to the household for the costs incurred by their visit.

Romantic Relationships: Establishing a romantic relationship during Voluntary Service, either within or outside of the household, has been shown to significantly distract participants from the objectives of the program.  Such relationships are strongly discouraged.  Should such a relationship develop, it is expected that:

  • Participants will continue to conductthemselves in line with the Responsible Behaviour guidelines set forth above.
  • Participants will continue to maintain acommitment to Unit Life expectations stated above.
  • Participants will have an honest discussionwith their unit about the implications of the relationship on Unit life.

Disregardfor any of the above stated expectations will result in discipline, and may result in dismissal from the program.

End of Term Evaluation: Near the end of the volunteer’s term of service, Local Leadership will initiate an evaluation process/exit interview about how the year has been for each volunteer.

Re-entry after service: Local Leadership and Unit members are encouraged to help each volunteer prepare for the transition from Voluntary Service to “normal life.”  The volunteer is encouraged to contact their home congregation, pastor, family and friends for additional support ande ncouragement during this time of change.

 

MVSA Retreats: An all-units retreat is held in the spring of each year (usually on the May long weekend) at a location chosen by the hosting group.  All volunteers are expected to attend this retreat, and all Local Leadership are invited to attend. Transportation costs for volunteers will be covered from Unit funds.  In addition, Units may arrange for local weekend retreats.  Unit funds may be used for this purpose with Local Leadership approval.

 

Style of Living:  Members of MVSA are expected to practice a lifestyle in keeping with the principles of sound ecology, good health, and wise stewardship of resources. Consumption of food, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs in a manner harmful to health, personal growth and community life, or which jeopardizes the effectiveness of the service program’s witness in the community, are unacceptable.

 

All relationships and work should reflect Christian life and values.  Volunteers are expected to give priority to their service assignments and Unit life over other relationships.  Because an individual’s behaviour and relationships directly affect others in the Unit, volunteers should be willing to discuss these subjects openly with Local Leadership and Unit members.

 

Personal Vehicles:  MVSA views transportation as a justicei ssue.  In seeking to identify with the poor it is essential that we face the discrepancy of access to transportation and the larger impact that operating a personal vehicle has on our world.  For these reasons, MVSA has a general bias against personal vehicles in Units.  MVSA recognizes the need for vehicles in some locations, especially in light of certain workplace partnerships.

 

Personal vehicles may be brought into MVSA only with the permission of, or request of, the Local Leadership.  The Unit may cover operating costs only if the vehicle is equally available for use by all members.  The person bringing the vehicle retains ownership of it, and should oversee its use.

 

Personal vehicles will be reimbursed based on a standard rate determined by Local Leadership for work-related or Unit-related travel. 

 

Volunteers are personally responsible for the cost of any and all traffic violations or accidents.

 

Unit Vehicles:  Some MVSA units have vehicles which are available for travel to and from work, Unit activities, local MVSA involvements, and limited personal use by volunteers.  Volunteers are responsible to ensure good maintenance, cleaning, and repair work in consultation with Local Leadership.  Local sites establish guidelines for personal use of the vehicle that reflect MVSA philosophy towards vehicles noted above.

 

Personal problems/counselling:  It is natural that volunteers will at times have concerns and feelings they need to discuss confidentially.  The place to secure this help may be within the Unit, from Local Leadership, or from a trusted person within the Sponsoring Congregation or the community.  It is important for volunteers to find meaningful ways to express concerns and feelings.   A special reference group for an individual volunteer may be established by the Unit and Local Leadership to work with a personal problem.

 

At times, a local person outside the MVSA circle may assist in this process.  Individuals are encouraged to seek counseling when needed.  In certain situations professional counseling may be arranged. Prior approval must be obtained from Local Leadership if costs are incurred.  The volunteer is not expected to share the cost of counseling for a diagnosed clinical mental illness, unless there is a pre-existing condition, in which case any costs incurred are the responsibility of the volunteer.

Settling Disputes:  Matthew 18:15-17 states: “if one of my followers sins against you, go and point out what is wrong privately, just between the two of you. If that person listens you have won back a follower.  But if they refuse to listen, take along oneo r two others.  If the follower refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the church.”

 In line with the instructions of God’s word, efforts to resolve conflict should take the following form:

  • If it is safe to do so, approach the individually privately and directly
  • If not resolved, involve one or two other witnesses.
  • If not resolved, take the matter to local MVSA leadership
  • If not resolved, contact the sponsoring congregation and request their intervention

 If still not resolved, involved parties shall appoint a mediator both sides can agree on.  If no such person can be foundor agreed upon, another person shall be selected with input from Local  Leadership.  The role of the mediator is to gather information and to make recommendations for resolution of the issue.

 

If mediation is not successful, an ad hoc problem solving committee shall beformed.  Each involved party will select one representative.  A mutually agreed upon MVSA Leadership person will be appointed to serve as mediator and to facilitate the problem solving process. The objective of this committee is to agree upon solutions to the issue at hand.  This step is considered successful if all parties involved are reasonably satisfied with its outcome.

 

If this committee is unsuccessful, any involved party may appeal to the Local Leadership who will investigate the issue and make a decision.  Any decision made by Local Leadership isfinal.

 

Substance Use: Use of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs in a MVSA household, or during one’s voluntary service term is strictly prohibited. Violation may result in discipline and may result in dismissal from the program.

 

Sexual Harassment:  is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, invitations, requests, and any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  If allegations of sexuallyharassing /abusive behaviour are made against a VS’er, Local Leadership will

  • Work to maintain the safety and confidentiality of all parties involved.
  • Ensure that contact between the alleged perpetrator and accuser is minimized or completely terminated while a thorough investigation is implemented.
  • Work with all parties toward appropriate and reasonable closure, and discipline based on investigation results.

 If the VS’er alleges sexually harassing or abusive behaviour against an individual in their service assignment or elsewhere, the program will support the VS’ers to take the required steps to address the issue.

Guidelines for dealing with offences:  Substantiated disclosures of serious ethical offences, including acts of violence or possessiono f illegal drugs, will result in the immediate suspension of the offending volunteer.  These offences include, but are not limited to:

  • Deception, dishonesty, theft.
  • Acts of physical, emotional and sexual violence/abuse
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Gross neglect of personal and professional responsibilities
  • Any persistent behaviour that is hurtful to one’s self or others. 

Guidelinesfor dealing with ethical offences are outlined in a separate document entitled Guidelines for Dealing with Offences in Mennonite Voluntary Service.  This document is available as a resource from Local Leadership, on request.  In all matters related to ways of living and behaving, MVSA is committed to following Christ’s example.  Jesus is our model, not only in how we respond to the world’s needs, but also in our personal behaviour. 

"For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 3:11
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