What all volunteers should know

The GELA Prison Project is completely volunteer-run, with the exception of our partnership with Edmonton Public Library. We are excited to have new volunteers participate; here are some general guidelines to getting involved.

  • We encourage new volunteers to become members of the Greater Edmonton Library Association (GELA).
  • All new volunteers will be added to the email list, which mainly serves to help us organize meeting dates and topics, discuss some questions, or ask for volunteers for specific projects.
  • Volunteer intake takes place on a quarterly basis (Dec 1, March 1, June 1, September 1). There are steps you need to complete before the intake date. Before you can volunteer for projects at the Edmonton Institution for Women (EIFW) you need to complete a security clearance form and part one of a two part volunteer training program organized by the EIFW. See the EIFW Prison Liaison on our contact page to get a copy of the form and find out about the volunteer training.
  • All volunteers are welcome to join our quarterly committee meetings. Any volunteer can request to have an agenda item added.
  • All volunteers should check the blog for updates on events, interesting readings, and other useful information about the group and how we work.
  • Volunteers suggest new projects, which are discussed by the entire group at our bimonthly meetings before implementing. This is mainly so that we are all aware of our activities.
  • If you have an idea for a new project, we welcome it! Please know that we ask you to be prepared to be the main coordinator of any project you suggest. As the main coordinator, we ask that you consider the following questions:
    • Does your project require startup or operational funds? We need to consider this question in light of any fundraising plans and spending plans we make.
    • How many people will the project require? Can you start with one or two and scale up if it’s successful?
    • Does your project require any kind of special security clearance? These can be different in different institutions; for example, volunteers can bring laptops into the EIFW, but not into the EI. That means the Storybook project has to depend on the EI staff for equipment.
    • Can you commit to the project for a set period of time? Please make sure that you don’t promise inmates something that you aren’t sure you can deliver (i.e., don’t suggest that your project will go for two years if you know you can only commit to one). It is disappointing to them, and doesn’t encourage trust between our volunteers and the inmates.
  • Proposed projects should be added to our meeting agenda; contact the Meeting Chair to do so (see Contacts page).
  • If you have an idea but aren’t sure how to answer some of the questions below, please ask other committee volunteers; we have varying levels of experience and we are all happy to help you think through your work.

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