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Best Practice Volunteerism
6th September 2006
That's it. I've had enough of
being a tourist doing some volunteer work as I go.
Time to switch it around and get my teeth stuck into some
sustainable, long term projects that will hopefully benefit the people
Best Practice Volunteerism
I've been thinking a lot about volunteering recently. I drew a
little diagram recently in a notebook that summed up what good
volunteering is. It looked something like this (please excuse the
crappy quality of the diagram):
The two major
questions that every volunteer needs to ask themselves are:
- Would this of happened if you weren't here?
If the answer is Yes, then what is the point of being here in
the first place?
While talking to
groups of people is fun, it would of happened if I wasn't
here. Ditto for the construction
of dish-drying tables and the planting
of vegetable gardens.
The question of efficiency also comes into play. If you can
make an already existing process more efficient, then you're doing a
A good example of this is the work done by Marie
and Eric in the mangrove
plantations of Nalu-Oyan in the Philippines. They both worked
very hard and contributed many good ideas to ensuring the best
quality mangroves were planted.
- Will it carry on when you're gone?
This is really a question of sustainability. Projects that
carry on after you leave are the best sort. All too often I am
seen well intentioned people start up projects which carry on really
well when they are there, and then just fall too pieces when they
I heard about some water pumps that were installed by an NGO in the
Philippines. The NGO did all the work and supplied all the
materials. They left the locals with the pump and went onto
other projects. Eventually the pump broke as pumps are wont to
do. The locals expected the NGO to return and fix it for
The key ingredient that was missing from the project was
ownership. The locals didn't feel as if they owned the water
pump. The NGO built it, therefore they owned it, therefore it
was their responsibility to fix it when it broke.
Emma - an Englishwomen with
whom I volunteered in the Philippines had a good idea for the water
pump project that she did. She supplied all the materials
and the locals provided all the labour. The locals had some
ownership in the pump and - I assume - will now be more likely to
fix it when it goes wrong.
Other similar stories abound about poultry projects and pig farms.
Anything I plan to do while I am here in Uganda, must satisfactorily
answer those two questions.
Specific goals that I do have for Africa can
be found here.
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2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.
All the stuff on this site is written by me, Malcolm Trevena. Feel free to
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