We been involved in hosting self funding volunteers for a period of about 5 years. We did, through our other tourism products and responsible tourism strategy already have strong community based partnerships in place. What follows is a perspective on our experience of the people and places volunteer programme.
We can only achieve in terms of the quality of volunteers that arrive. We have been very fortunate to work in conjunction with people and places
, a dedicated responsible placement agency. A critical success factor for our programme has been an international partner that shares our vision of ethical and responsible volunteering. There is a general understanding of the requirement s that make up a sustainable programme. To this end, our volunteers have been skills matched to needs we have communicated, after joint needs assessments with the projects/communities we serve. Secondly, we have found the more mature volunteers to be skilled in general life experience, as well as hard skills. Our volunteers have been well screened, come with a sense of independence, a can do attitude, and a sense of wanting to serve. I am not sure exactly how people and places
gets this right, but so far they have. We have also found that linking past volunteers to future volunteers helps to orientate the volunteers, and is another critical success factor. We are confident of good reporting from the old to the new, as we run a tight, well organised programme.
The quality of volunteers has been superb.
What has been achieved:
The achievements must be broken into two areas. One is skills specific. The other more general.
Specific skills have been handed over. Our strategy of linking teachers with teachers has brought excellent results.
We have seen on our computer teaching programme a great upsurge in enthusiasm for computing among learners - and the confidence among teachers to honour that. While some schools had computers, the educators were not properly trained. Now they are, more confident but there is still much that can be done , computing is being integrated into the school structure. We have had science teachers who have shown local teachers how to set up experiments using every day available items. Our teachers are competent, but the volunteer teachers have been great in adding new ideas and approaches. We have seen great strides in literacy among some weaker learners, who were not getting individual attention, because of large class sizes. A months intensive reading often boosts these learners to a level where they can cope in the classroom again.Teachers who have had the benefit of volunteer input have been introduced to teaching techniques to which they would never otherwise have had access.
The feedback from schools, learners and teachers has been profound. However, general issues of a favourable nature have also emerged. Teachers feel supported, recognised and motivated by the attention of volunteers. We come from racially polarised society, so having mostly white volunteers in black schools is beneficial for everyone, and is stated. Parents have become interested in the visiting volunteers, and as a result, we hope to set up local parent volunteer teams.
And the volunteers learn about us. They give a lot, but often state they receive much more back. An understanding of economically poor people having there own spiritual wealth. Some are surprised by the tenacity of our educators, the ability to make something out of little. And they all express how much they learn about community for us. Acceptance, tolerance and sharing.
The programme has been profound on so many levels.
But it brings challenges too:
Perhaps one of the biggest is keeping it all rolling. Attracting enough volunteers to keep active in all 7 schools. Perhaps a level of raised expectations we must meet. And then the management of negative impacts. Schools disrupt[ting ordinary teaching to accommodate volunteers, teachers handing over work to volunteers instead of working with them. These are real.
But, having an effective Project Management team in place like ourselves is critical. Volunteers are managed carefully, with much preparation in there placement project prior to arrival, during, and also after. The after part is important. Many wish to go back and fundraise, collect materials etc, and this goodwill needs to be harnessed. We have fieldworkers in place to do this.
The volunteer programme serves the community and the volunteer. It tries always to meet both needs. This is not easy, but through effective screening/preparation in the UK, and then effective management here we achieve this - most of the time.
This programme develops a sense of a shared humanity.
Contributor: Paul - local partner