Young volunteers and local communities – poorly served by UK government

Young volunteers and local communities – poorly served by UK government

This article in the Telegraph today by Andrew Gilligan makes very disturbing reading what a wasted opportunity – what a waste of money!

I wrote about our concerns about the effectiveness of such a programme – unless very well designed and supervised – in a  blog back in July 2011 ( read it here) after the publication of a DEMOS study done for the UK government for this very initiative -International Citizen Service.

Here’s an excerpt of my blog

Please ICS – if this initiative does not become the victim of budget cuts and goes ahead – please take this opportunity to set a gold standard for gap volunteering – young people do have skills – and WELL prepared and WELL managed they can make a positive difference. Some of the young volunteers we have placed have been amoungst the very best.

– Sadly, it looks like the important recommendation by DEMOS  that meaningul work is found for these young volunteers has not been followed – this is a real lost opportunity – these young people do have skills  and there are many communities who could benefit from those skills – but they need to be matched.

This is from DFIDs own report after phase one of this initiative !

The participants’ own concerns that they are just being given a state-subsidised gap experience were reflected in the official evaluation report for the pilot phase. Evidence of development impact from their work, conceded the report, was “weak,” with only “tenuous and insubstantial positive impacts” in many placements. There was “considerable under-utilisation” of the young volunteers, leaving them “frustrated and aimless,” with key problems being their “lack of specific skills” and their “lack of grit”.

mmmmm I am getting crosser as I type – but  maybe this article is wrong????????????

Who is responsible for  designing  this  programme and preparing and matching the young volunteers? Are they accountable ? What are the improvements that have been put in place for the second phase?

Where is the money being spent? Who are the sending organisations with which ICS is working?

Will anyone answer my questions?

Here are some more extracts from the article – but please read it all.

I am not sure about the political point being made by Mr Gilligan – I am sure there are some great DFID initiatives – but I know a bit about responsible volunteering and looks like they messed up here!

“Is there really a point to international volunteering?” asked Cristina, who was assigned to a rural Indian village. “What could three young girls do to help in such a foreign environment? Everyone [in the local charity they were supposed to be helping] was really welcoming and nice, but they were stuck in their own jobs and did not know where we should fit in. Also, what skills did we have that could aid in improving people’s lives? It seemed like none. On our first field trip, it felt like we were VIP tourists… but that was not what we signed off to do.”

“I feel, and the other volunteers would agree, that we have been very much pampered and living in luxury,” wrote Monju, one participant in the Peru ICS programme. “It has been better than most holidays I have been on… We have started to become very critical of what we have done so far and what the orientation has really delivered.

“There has been a lot of talk about the cost of sending us to Peru, which is £6,000. Is it better to send over a volunteer, potentially someone who has not had any previous volunteering experience, to Peru to teach English, or is it better to just give the £6,000 to the people so they can help themselves? Are we gaining more than the beneficiaries?”

Some volunteers ended up on projects which taxpayers might not expect to be funding. One group in Tanzania found itself teaching street children to tap dance. According to another blogger, in El Salvador, some youngsters ended up observing prostitutes in order to “draw up a Gender Positioning System” map of sex workers’

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