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working to make our support for volunteer projects worthwhile and sustainable

One of our core values at people and places is to make sure that the work our volunteers do is of real use to the communities where we work and forms part of an initiative that can and will be continued after the volunteer goes home.  We are determined to avoid the kind of volunteering where someone goes into a community with an idea we think is good but which is in fact irrelevant to the way things work in that country, or which has already been done in a slightly different way by an earlier volunteer.

How on earth can we hope to achieve such a challenging aim?

At the heart of our work is the support plan.  Each project has a support plan, available for prospective volunteers to view on our website.   For example, click here to read the support plan for youth development in Saint Lucia.  The support plan contains a short list of aims for the work of volunteers on that project, plus some suggestions as to activities volunteers might do to help achieve them.  These aims are NOT thought up by us – they are the needs expressed by people who actually work at the projects and by our local partners who live locally and work on a regular basis with the project so have a much better idea than us of what local needs are.  The suggested activities are simply that – suggestions.  It would not be possible to write a finite list of actions to be carried out because we cannot know in advance what skills and experiences each volunteer may be able to contribute – however they do give a guideline for volunteers in seeing how they might be able to use their skills to help achieve a need which local people have expressed.  Whilst we constantly use the support plan to inform the volunteer matching process, it is formally reviewed every two years, and at that stage projects and local partners add new aims and suggested activities, remove any aims which have been completely fulfilled or are no longer relevant and they and we together detail what has been done by volunteers within those two years towards achieving existing aims.  At this stage we also add in, if the project agrees, any recommendations made by volunteers as to how their work could be built on by others who follow them.  However the support plans can be changed and added to at any time, and some local partners regularly ask us to add aims or to make other alterations. Read the rest of this entry »

a new guide for turning good intentions into effective results

We at people and places have been asked to advise on many volunteer guides in the past – here is one we can wholeheartedly recommend.

 You can buy The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad direct from the publishers here.

The Essential Guide to Volunteering Abroad offers a powerful and transformative new approach to international volunteering. The “learning service” model helps volunteers embrace the learning side of their adventures—and discover how cultivating openness, humility, and a willingness to reflect can enhance help them do good better. It’s not a lightweight ‘how-to’ handbook, but a thoughtful critique, a shocking exposé, and a detailed guide to responsibly serving communities in need.’ (Bennett et al)

We are proud to have been a part of it.