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MAVA Membership Inspires Change

Matthew Llewellyn-Otten | Published on 4/6/2022
I love being a MAVA member! Over the past 5 months of my MAVA membership, I have been able to lean upon the wisdom of an organization that is research-based, compassionate, and inclusive.  Having recently started my job as the Religious Organizer at OutFront MN, I have needed to take a deep look at the ways in which the pandemic has changed the ways in which we activate volunteers, as well as the racial disparities that have been long-present within volunteer engagement. I have found that MAVA’s “Co-Creating Racial Equity in Volunteer Engagement” to be a resource that helped me to see my work through a new lens. 

Their research found that through intentional changes we can begin to break down the barriers to volunteerism and better reflect the communities in which we serve. As an LGBTQIA2S+ faith organizer, it has been of utmost importance to listen to the voices of people who identify as BIPOC in order to create change for an entire community, not just those with money and power. Using MAVA’s research, I have been able to deeply examine the ways in which the LGBTQ+ movement has left out trans and BIPOC voices and vow to do better.

In an effort to listen deeply, I have created a volunteer-based coalition of speakers who are able to share their stories of harm perpetuated by worshipping communities and the ways in which they find healing. This group is intended to be a space for deep listening not only to create better inclusion of all people in faith communities, but also to see the ways in which the LGBTQ+ rights movement has failed to address the needs to BIPOC communities and then vow to do better.  This idea came to fruition from the suggestion of MAVA’s research to center people over the organization and to put the community’s needs first. Moreover, I learned that it is through deep listening that we can learn, grow, and create lasting change.

I love being a MAVA member because it helps me to think more deeply about the ways in which we create lasting change – while also centering compassion, empathy, and equity. Being a MAVA member means that I am pushed to think deeply, be uncomfortable, and then create the change needed to address the growing needs of inclusion and diversity. I deeply appreciate the work of MAVA and am proud to be a member as well as sit on their board of directors with others who are longing to learn, grow, and create lasting change in volunteerism.