I am hoping some of you can help me. I have started going into schools to give talks to sixth form students about how to choose good volunteering projects for their gap year or student travels. There are many good and worthwhile projects to choose from (including those offered by people and places of course!) but there are also many pitfalls to avoid, and most students are unaware that volunteering opportunities that sound great may be very different in reality. My talk involves getting students to think critically about different types of volunteering experiences, looking for possible pitfalls and working out what questions they should ask to avoid them. I want to encourage them to volunteer, not put them off, so we also consider what good and worthwhile volunteering experiences might look like. The aim is to give students questions to ask so that any volunteering they do is of value not only to themselves but also to the projects where they work.
The schools I have gone into so far have all been very appreciative of the talks I have given – some of their feedback comments are given below. However I am finding that I can only easily get into schools where I have a personal connection . . . and I’ve now run out of schools to go to! I believe these are important issues that all students should be aware of and I would like to get into more schools to spread the message. So I am wondering whether any of you would be able to introduce me to schools or colleges where you have connections. I am willing to travel to schools and colleges in the UK to give the talk for free – it lasts an hour and fits most easily into a school’s general studies or critical thinking programme. If you are able to help please email me – email@example.com. Thank you for your help. Here’s a flyer for my presentation
‘Dianne’s talk was fascinating. It offered a very complete picture of the highs (and lows!) of volunteering abroad, with a sting in the tale which was revelatory for the Sixth Form audience. Dianne was very frank about the pitfalls that are all too easy to fall into – dodgy orphanages and unscrupulous charity packages that rob both volunteers and the communities – and she also outlined how to recognise good volunteering experiences that are beneficial to both sides. The talk encouraged students to be critical and reflective. Recommended.’ (Head of Sixth Form)
‘The talk was helpful. The talk alerted me to things I didn’t know before. I had no idea that some situations can be fabricated for the ‘benefit’ of volunteers. It was shocking but incredibly useful.’ (Eliza, year 13 student)
‘The talk was very interesting. It really helped me see how good gap year volunteering could be for me and for the country I went to IF I prepared and thought about what the country needed and what I could do best.’ (Simon, year 13 student)
‘Although I’m not interested in volunteering at this stage, I now realise how careful you have to be. It’s too easy to be tricked into thinking that what you’re seeing is the real thing. A gap year like this is expensive. I’d want to make sure my money is going into something useful.’ (Bethan, year 13 student)