Social Scientist Volunteers Her Skills

“I’m a social scientist,” Karina Schaake says modestly. “My background is in evaluation and research.” With a Master’s degree in both Cultural Anthropology and Social Policy, Karina is working toward her Ph.D. in Sociology. During the summer, Karina decided she wanted to volunteer with a nonprofit organization.

“I wanted to do something with homelessness. I came from the Netherlands and I was quite shocked at how bad the problem is here. It is much worse than in western Europe,” she said. “I am very discerning so I made lists and then narrowed them down.” A Community of Friends was one of the organizations on Karina’s list.

KarinaSchaakeStandingKarina first met with Deidre Strohm, Director of Fund Development. Deidre connected her with David Littlehales, Director of Residential Services and James Ramirez, Assistant Director of Residential Services

“I really liked them. They were very down to earth, very concerned and involved in what they’re doing,” Karina said, “They did their job with the heart and I felt at home with them.”

Karina had a “great experience” with ACOF. She enjoys volunteer opportunities because she is exposed to a new group of people. She can learn from them and respect what they have to offer and she hopes they feel the same with her.

“It feels good to work with people who really value what I’m doing,” says Karina, “A smile can mean much more than money.”

Measuring The Metrics

As a volunteer project, Karina and the Residential Services Supervisors (RSS) examined their day-to-day usage of the residential services metrics. She collected data through a focus group with the RSS. Karina was sensitive to protecting the anonymity of the survey participants to ensure she gathered meaningful feedback. Karina then met with the Director and Assistant Director of the department to summarize the overall findings.

Karina presented two primary findings. First, the evaluation itself enhanced staff’s understanding of the importance of data collection and how to collect it more effectively. Second, the data collected helped facilitate development of future tenant programming. David Littlehales, department director, stated, “Karina was instrumental in getting to the heart of our assessment of internal programs in striving to improve the lives of tenants.”

Click here to learn more about Volunteer Opportunities with A Community of Friends.