It’s January, the time of year when many people’s minds turn to travel plans – maybe a holiday – or maybe a volunteer placement! At the moment many people are ‘travelling the world’ via their computer screens – and you can volunteer in this way too without leaving the comfort and safety of your own front room.
Visiting a tourist destination by viewing it online could accurately be described as ‘virtual travel’ – there’s no physical travelling involved. Similarly an online tour of a museum or gallery could accurately be called a ‘virtual tour’. But don’t be fooled – there’s nothing ‘virtual’ about the online volunteer opportunities we offer through our e-volunteer programme!
We will create a genuine volunteer experience for you, matching your skills and experiences to local needs in exactly the same way as we do for a travelling volunteer. You will still be able to get to know and interact with local people through regular planned video calls – and some local people have told us they feel they have built up better relationships with volunteers online because they have had longer to get to know them. Working alongside a local person to share skills can happen just as meaningfully online as if you are sitting next to them in the same room. Some of our education projects have set up online teaching for their students – e-volunteers are joining these classes to observe lessons and to work alongside the local teachers exactly as they would if they were physically at the school.
We do not describe our e-volunteer programme as ‘virtual volunteering’ because there’s nothing virtual about it. The word virtual implies it is not real, and our e-volunteers are certainly doing real placements. There are challenges to e-volunteering as there are to volunteering in person; the challenges may be different – working out how to get the best sound quality on a video-call rather than working in uncomfortably high temperatures, planning meetings or lesson observations to accommodate a 6 hour time difference rather than remembering to take your malaria tablets – but the volunteer experience is still very real. You may be working in a virtual classroom or meeting room, but the teaching you are doing is real teaching, the skills-sharing you are doing is just as real and valuable as if you were there.
E-volunteering is online, but it’s real not virtual. Of course we would love to be able to offer conventional volunteer travel again, and we will as soon as it’s safe to do so, but for now we are delighting in the opportunities we have to create genuine and meaningful interactions with people in countries around the world, working online – and how lucky we are to live at a time when this is a real possibility! Come and join us!
To find out about the e-volunteer opportunities we offer take a look here: www.e-volunteer.co.uk