Connection and relationships are a big part of what makes the AFS experience. Being able to work and have fun together is a big element of volunteer engagement. Keeping that motivation during the past year has been a huge challenge for every volunteer organization. In AFS Chile, after many months without visiting their local chapters, they knew they needed new ways to connect online. Since they can’t go to the chapters, why not send an AFS ambassador?
The Story of Humbolito
This little Humboldt Penguin is not meant to be a mascot for AFS Chile, but rather a friend of the organization. AFS created it to increase online volunteer engagement regardless of the distance, and it has worked wonders: over the past two months, more than 20 posts have been created in Workplace with 550 interactions so far (And there are still quite a few local chapters to visit!).
How has it been so active?
In order to have a constant flow of posts, AFS Chile created 3 identical penguins, one for each region of the country. By doing this, they ensured that a chapter always had a plush while the other two were still “traveling”. This helped them get more content, more often.
Another key thing was the chapters they choose to start this initiative. Humbolito was first sent to strong local chapters, with volunteers that were active on Workplace. Not only did this create quality content from the start, but it motivated other volunteers to take part in the initiative.
Plus, it’s a great intercultural activity! Each volunteer has had the chance to show their town, monuments, and the culture of each region. In a year where traveling has not been an option, this gave volunteers a peek of other parts of their own country they might not know. So far, Humbolito has been to deserts, beaches, even a mine!
This has been a great way to maintain volunteer engagement and increase online participation. These posts generate a lot of engagement and they even voted for the name on Workplace. The initiative has been so successful that AFS Chile will produce additional plushes so volunteers can buy one for themselves. And this penguin is only the first of them (a little llama is coming soon!)
The idea is to have the different AFS friends to continue visiting Chile, eventually participating in official activities, such as trainings, meetings, and info sessions.