It’s always great to hear news of our volunteers, especially when their volunteering has contributed to other achievements in their lives.
An award winner: One of our volunteers was all set to go to Cambodia on her volunteer trip when Covid struck in 2020. As part of her day job she hosts travel podcasts so during the last two years, as her contribution to e-volunteering, she has made podcasts for two of our local partners, in Cambodia and Morocco. In order to do this she needed to learn new skills – the scripting and editing processes were totally new to her, and she had to come to grips with various technological issues to make this work. (You will find a link to her latest podcast in another article in this newsletter). Now she has won an award!
‘Travel editor, Zara Sekhavati from London, was announced as the Writing Mentorship Award winner in the Page Turner Awards. The Page Turner Awards offers authors, writers, and screenwriters the chance to enter the first 10 pages of their writing project, where a judging panel of literary experts and film producers will read the work. Sekhavati’s memoir Another Iran is a book about her travels around Iran with a female cousin who lives in Iran. The places they see and people they meet, interspersed with Iranian history, culture and childhood memories of holidaying in Iran every summer. The point of Sekhavati’s book is to show another side to Iran, a side that readers may not be familiar with and it’s about giving Iran a voice. She wants to share the everyday Iran, its culture, and its people. The writer describes Iran as one of the friendliest places in the world. It shows that people need to look deep inside a place to find its people and its genuine, authentic character, and to find the real stories from everyday people.’
A personal challenge: Another of our volunteers has used some of her time this year to produce training documents for the projects supported by people and places on how to use spreadsheets. She uses spreadsheets regularly in her professional and personal life, but has never done any training for other people so found it quite a challenge to work out how to explain everything simply, especially when the materials would be used independently by people from various different countries and cultures and she would not be by their side to explain things verbally. For most of her life she has been heavily involved with the Girl Guides, and as a personal challenge she is taking part in the Trefoil Awards, described as ‘a long term commitment that builds skills and challenges members at different levels’. For one section of her award she has to submit evidence about a completely new skill or activity she has done this year – and producing training materials about spreadsheets fits the bill perfectly! So – two birds with one stone – another section of the award ticked off for our volunteer and some really useful training materials for the projects we support.
Educational qualifications: Two of our previous volunteers have contacted us to let us know they have completed their PhDs this year. One of them is of particular interest as they based their dissertation around responsible volunteering, using people and places as their case study – another example of how volunteering can benefit both local communities and the volunteer themselves. The volunteer contributed a lot to the local communities on which they based their case study, we gave them support and their dissertation has now been published.
A career change: Another of our e-volunteers told us they had been considering a career change for a while – they wanted a new change of direction. Their e-volunteer placement was based around skills from their current job – but working online with teachers and linking up online with classes in Cambodia for their e-volunteer placement confirmed for them what they had already been considering. They have now resigned from their previous job and started a PGCE course to become a teacher.
A wish fulfilled: one of our volunteers had been volunteering regularly at a school in South Africa since 2008. They were so much missing South Africa! In their home town in the USA they have been involved with several book groups for many years – they love books and had expressed a desire to read more literature written by black authors about black lives. Our partners in South Africa had suggested an online book group – what a great match! Volunteer and local people came together for 12 weeks to read together and discuss issues raised in the book they chose to read, and the book group was declared a resounding success by all concerned. The first book group will continue next year independently and the volunteer will start a second book group to introduce yet more people to the love of reading.
New skills used to benefit communities at home as well as abroad: A number of volunteers say how nervous they are before committing to an e-volunteer placement, not because they don’t have the skills and knowledge to contribute to the project to which they had been matched, but because they are concerned they don’t have the technical know-how to do this online. What a difference a few weeks e-volunteering can make to people’s confidence! So many volunteers (me included) now regard Zoom link-ups as part of our daily lives and many have gone on to use this newly acquired skill to benefit their communities at home as well – I have been told of WI meetings now happening online, drama groups, choirs, meditation groups, art groups – the list goes on. I’m sure many of these would have happened without the input of an e-volunteer placement but several volunteers say they would not have had the confidence to set up groups like this if they hadn’t gained confidence with us first – and we are proud of the contributions we have made.
To learn more about e-volunteering take a look here: www.e-volunteer.co.uk