A response to a blog the other night on the Global Poverty Project website about voluntourism: http://www.globalpovertyproject.com/blog/view/302
As a 22 year old recently graduated teacher I took off to climb a few mountains and a spot of teaching and maybe some volunteering. Somehow I managed to not have the mindset to go off and save the world – but to learn from it.
I fell in love with volunteering and managed to volunteer around the world for over 8 years both independently and with organisations.
Volunteering is one of those things that is full of great pleasure, interaction, fulfilment, learning and a very rich experience.
Volunteering doesn’t just mean putting up your hand and then being given accolades for it. Volunteers can just as easily be a hindrance than a help and I know I have had my hindrance moments in my years of volunteering.
The earlier we start to volunteer and feel its goodness the better we will become and a useful, helpful, professional and effective volunteer for the future.
My big three rules for volunteering to be a help not a hindrance are:
- listen to the needs of the people
- work in partnership not as the expert – it should be a shared experience of cultural and personal exchange
- make sure what you are doing is attainable and sustainable – something that is appropriate and realistic and can continue without you
I wish someday volunteering will become a profession and effective volunteering can be taught and learnt. A dream job when I grow up will be a teacher specialist in volunteering – hopefully touring by bike and my girlfriend teaching effective volunteering for emergency aid and disasters (as she is now volunteering in Colombia for Médecins Sans Frontières).
For now I get to manage numerous volunteers who have been specially selected and see the incredible value they add and the satisfaction they receive in return. It is a beautiful process with winners all over the place!
I also someday dream volunteering gets the recognition it deserves. I don’t know how many times I have heard people say ‘oh well you were only volunteering’ like it doesn’t count – like the various Boards of Education who don’t recognise any of my eight years teaching overseas even though I was often working at Ministry level like writing curriculum for the Ministry of Education for all new universities in Ethiopia with a team.
As long as I love the volunteering I do I don’t care but without effective volunteers and volunteering this world would be stuffed but that is what makes volunteering and world so wonderful!