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Responsible Volunteering

Respect is at the heart of responsible volunteering. We established people and places to enable volunteers to engage with communities abroad, to share their skills and knowledge and to work together as partners to achieve their host’s goals. Mutual respect between host and guest is crucial in such a partnership. people and places volunteers never replace a local employee: they work as colleagues, contributing as part of the team, and enjoying the privileges of being an ?insider?.

Our volunteers travel as paying guests who roll up their sleeves and muck in – paying guests because they pay their way. Too often when working abroad I have come across ?volunteers? who make demands on community resources to enable then to do their volunteering. Our volunteers pay for their board and lodging, local transport, liaison with the project and full time support, and each of them makes a donation to the project they work on. If resources are needed for them to achieve their allocated task in the project, they discuss it with their hosts and can buy what they need locally. As paying guests, they neither become a burden on the community they have travelled to assist, nor do they impose their own objectives.

I am often asked whether short term volunteering can work. It can, but only when the volunteers are carefully matched together and work in teams ?  where returning volunteers brief the next ones and where all the volunteers working in a particular place are in touch with each other. I believe this contributes to the overall maintenance and development of a professional team approach and avoids dependency on individuals.

I was privileged to be in the rural community of Mapoch, South Africa, when a volunteer who had been at the school for three weeks was demonstrating to the staff how to work the ?new? computers which she had refurbished from locally donated redundant computers. In a mere three weeks, this very capable volunteer had patched together a computer lab for computer classes for pupils and their parents ? and trained key members of staff who could continue the use and development of basic computer skills.   

As paying guests, people and places volunteers form lasting relationships with their colleagues, often maintaining those professional relationships through email and by fundraising. Volunteers contribute to the sustainability of projects by assisting in briefing the next volunteers who will be travelling to continue the work. Many return to the same community a second or third time.

people and places volunteers enjoy the satisfaction of working with colleagues, in a different place and culture, to achieve objectives which originate with their hosts and become shared objectives. This is truly travel with a purpose: people and places volunteers make a real difference and they are rightly proud of what they achieve.

Harold Goodwin
Chair of People and Places

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