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Volountourism: More Harm Than Good?

Volountourism: More Harm Than Good?

Date Posted: 08/11/2017

This article discusses some of the ethical considerations in volunteering overseas and ends up concluding that as well as volunteers being sensitive to their placements and time-frame, ‘they [volunteer organisations] will need to prioritise a narrative focused on joint, mutually beneficial learning between volunteers and host communities’.

This article discusses some of the ethical considerations in volunteering overseas and ends up concluding that as well as volunteers being sensitive to their placements and time-frame, ‘they [volunteer organisations] will need to prioritise a narrative focused on joint, mutually beneficial learning between volunteers and host communities’. This needs to happen before people volunteer so that they have a range of ethical volunteer options to choose from.

The ’partner’ in Partner West Africa (PWA) describes the collaborative approach at the centre of our model. Our focus on collaborative partnerships builds on our belief that the challenges the world faces today require comprehensive, holistic, cooperative responses: no person or organisation can effect sufficient change alone. So, by combining the knowledge and skills that our international volunteers (both individuals and groups), academic experts, partner organisations and local and international community members provide, we aim to design sustainable solutions to local development challenges.

We offer ethical, community-centred volunteer placements; placements linked to the volunteers existing knowledge, skills and interests and driven by needs identified by the communities we work alongside. For example, malaria has been identified by both the community and local health professionals as one of their top health related challenges. So PWA, working with a volunteer studying tropical diseases, conducted a baseline assessment of the community’s knowledge of the disease and used the findings to design a malaria education programme for children and adults. Subsequent volunteers have helped deliver, alongside our partners, the Ghana Health Service, numerous malaria education and screening events improving the community’s knowledge of malaria and how to prevent and respond to it.

Also discussed in the article is the potential harm volunteers can do whilst working with children. Importantly, PWA are a key member of the  'Better Volunteering, Better Care' Network's Global Working Group - the leading international body concerned with preventing harm to children caused by volunteer interaction or volunteering projects, and we are a leading voice in the campaign to end 'orphanage volunteering' and protect already vulnerable children from the emotional distress associated with short-term relationship engagement with international volunteers. Any volunteer working in the PWA Daycare and Nursery Centre works alongside our local staff, and run activities as a one off, or special activity, keeping the regular consistent contact between the children and the teachers intact. The teachers also benefit from learning new techniques, particularly in the area of creative play, from volunteers and are then able to continue these after the volunteer has left. Exactly the mutually beneficial learning the article advocates.

 

Find out more about PWA’s volunteer projects and programmes here and you can become part of our PWA family.

Author: Savage Magazine

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