responsible volunteering – the devil is in the detail

By Kate Stefanko. Filed in good and bad practice, volunteer stories  |  
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Our volunteers say some lovely things about people and places … but I’m not writing this piece as a self-congratulatory pat on the back for our professionalism … What volunteers say about us reflects their appreciation of genuinely well-matched volunteer placements – our taking time to put the right people in the right places.

Safari Garden - al fresco

the right place for the right people

My understanding of the phrase ‘the devil is in the detail’ is that it is often the small details which may be the most challenging part of a job.

Well – bring ’em on! I just LOVE the detail involved in preparing volunteers for placements where their skills and experience will be well-used … and therefore of mutual benefit to volunteers as well as projects.

So, here are just a few appreciative remarks from volunteers who have worked in Africa recently:

Everything to prepare me for the placement and all correspondence was done well, any information needed was supplied and supplied twice sometimes as Kate’s mantra is “better repetition than omission”. Knowing that you will get an almost instant reply to an email and a chat is just a phone call away would make any volunteer feel secure that they are dealing with a reputable organisation and dispel any concerns.” volunteer Hayley, ASSET, The Gambia

hayley lynagh

Marvin DoondeeaThe Project itself was doing a cost analysis on 5 charitable organisations moving onto one site to cut costs. As I left the Gambia this was already underway and it feels good to have been part of something that you hope will be there in years to come and help the people of the Gambia.” volunteer Marvin, ASSET, The Gambia

 

 

The highlight – I really enjoyed working with the staff at Emmanuel, and found that although I was trying to achieve results, the best way to do that was to keep things light and have fun. We did have a laugh together, and in many ways that was the greatest achievement.c staff meeting - outside until it gets too hot

“I feel I was successful in gaining buy in from the staff for the changes made to their reporting forms, and the form itself will make their jobs much easier and enable accurate collation of data. Although it’s only the tip of the iceberg, I am aware that this is an important contribution. I feel I gave the staff the impression that it is possible to make things change for the better, and that not all changes are hassle without reward. … we achieved a lot.”  volunteer Therese, community health care programme, South Africa

You see – this volunteer travel is good stuff IF & WHEN skilled and experienced volunteers are matched to local need as identified by local people!

I cannot praise this company too highly. I felt highly supported throughout, from the time I was thinking about volunteering. I knew that Kate was always at the end of the phone if I had a query which was very reassuring. On speaking to volunteers in Port Elizabeth who were placed through other companies, I feel confident that P&P is a very special organisation. They put great value on making sure that they place the volunteer with the most appropriate project and dealing personally with the volunteer at all times. As far as I am concerned, the whole experience of preparation was a pleasurable experience in itself! I feel I have made some new contacts and not just dealt with a faceless organisation that is no longer interested once your fees are paid.

volunteer Sue – one of the team

 

Overall, the whole experience was incredibly successful on a personal level. I was due to give help on teaching methodology and I feel that this was accomplished. I was given a timetable of classes and was teamed up with three Natural Science teachers all of whom were very receptive to my ideas. All the staff were helpful and very friendly – I really felt part of the staff.” volunteer Sue, schools support programme, South Africa

 

And hot off the press, this from one of our first volunteers in Cambodia:

attentive pupils in an airy classroom

attentive pupils in an airy classroom

“I had: • Very good Placement and background information from People and Places. • Very helpful formal and informal teaching information from Dianne, (P&P) along with the Grace House Mission Statement and introduction to the staff and community. • Comprehensive and detailed reports on the Education and Community context of the project. • Helpful School, Curriculum and Topic information from the Volunteer Coordinator at GH. • Lesson Planning and Classroom Management advice and detailed resource lists. • A Volunteer Handbook informed of their expectations, our responsibilities, an insight into the culture. • Practical advice on daily living from Michael Horton from ConCERT.

Grace House said the People and Places’ research into the project was very thorough.” volunteer Susan, education support, Cambodia

There we have it: beneficent results from devilish detail !

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