The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how community volunteers, in collaboration with teachers and the community, developed and implemented supportive school-community plans. The study forms part of the broader SHEBA (Supporting Home Environments in Beating Adversity) project (Ferreira & Ebersöhn, 2011-2013), which investigated the way in which community volunteers applied the asset-based approach in supporting vulnerable communities, by utilising school-based partnerships.
I followed a Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) methodological approach, relied on interpretivism as meta-theory and implemented a case study research design, as this allowed me to focus on a selected issue of a broader phenomenon. In selecting the case and participants I combined convenience and purposive sampling. Thirty eight community volunteers participated, who have been involved in the broader SHEBA project and have been supporting schools in high-risk communities in the Eastern Cape province, South Africa. For data generation and documentation I relied on PRA-based workshops, observation, field notes, and visual and audio-visual techniques. I analysed and interpreted the data by means of inductive thematic analysis.
Four themes (with relevant sub-themes) emerged. The first theme relates to the roles of volunteers in school-community partnerships, indicating that community volunteers fulfilled four roles in the school-community. The second theme represents relevant partners in the school-community partnerships that were established. The third theme concerns the implementation phases of supportive school-community plans. The last theme relates to the challenges experienced by participants in school-community partnerships.
Based on the findings of this study, I posit that community volunteers possess the necessary skills to formulate and develop supportive school-community plans that can address the needs of schools, families and the community at large. Volunteers are able to identify, mobilise and manage existing assets and can become resources to the school-communities they serve. This study therefore indicates the ability of volunteers to collaboratively construct knowledge, and provide direction to supportive school-community projects they initiate in collaboration with other stakeholders, in order to support those in need of help. In this way, community volunteers can support teachers, learners and the community in addressing challenges and pursuing positive change.