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How can all volunteering be "good"

Posted by Raj Gyawali 
A lot about volunteering actually depends on how it is conducted. Just the simple fact of whether it was long or short, was it for education, aids awareness, building a school, a toilet, disaster relief, etc... does not make it good or bad, effective or ineffective...

What is paramount is the process. I think that in most cases, we tend to oversimplify things and do not take an indepth look at these things.

Having coordinated short as well as long term volunteering, pay to volunteer, donate to volunteer as well as pure volunteering programs over the years, this is what I think.

Short term volunteering

Tell someone that short term volunteering is useless and I will say, say that to a physiotherapist who volunteered for one day at a Muscular Dystrophy Clinic run by a parent run program. Each patient going through the physiotherapist that day will thank the volunteer for the voluntary work... so is short term volunteering helpful...?? YES... but it depends where and for what.

Pay to Volunteer

Is this a right way to conduct volunteering? Absolutely... in many cases unless you take measures to ensure that you do the background research to find the right projects to work in, do the nescessary preparation to "place" the volunteer and minimise the negative impacts of volunteering, it will not be done right... so how can you do this if you have no money to do this background work...?? just marching into a village and volunteering is not the way to do it either... hence done right, a pay to volunteer program can be very effective from both the community and the volunteer. Many a time, activists against this form of volunteering forget that it does take a lot of work to place a volunteer rightly! Again, the process is important.. was it done right etc...

Donate to Volunteer

This is the most difficult one. When you continue this process for a long time, there is a dependency that sets in, and the community starts accepting volunteers only because they are donating money.. Typical cases of problems in Ghana for example is that every volunteer is looked upon as a source of money. Done right, and with the right background work, the donation can be utilized for exactly the priorities of the villages. So again, process is important

Pure Volunteering (for lack of a better word): You know what I mean!

Can be the most harmful if there is not a good liaison between volunteer and community.. can go totally haywire with volunteers creating too many expectations which cannot be fulfilled in the long term. But then again, if the fit happens to be good and the practice is good, that is followed by both the volunteer and the community, can be incredibly effective as there is not too many people involved. Its streamlined, inexpensive and effective... Again its all about process.

Hence, what is important is to identify the best practices to follow in each of these different types of volunteering... Paramount to the best practices is to maintain a few things

1. The developmental priorities of the host community should be considered before any volunteers come in
2. Volunteers should only work on projects sanctioned by the community and within their priorities. There will be more ownership this way and chances of continuity
3. Communities should be doing work continuously... many a time, things happen only when volunteers are there. No volunteer, no work... this is bad.. has no continuity..

So a very severe, activism scale community focus is required, when looked simply... if this is done, other things fall into place...

There are a lot of other focuses that are required, but this I think is where it should all start! Period.
Re: How can all volunteering be "good"
March 09, 2010 11:35AM
I am very interested to know whether donations can be out of self-interest rather than a charitable act or a humanitarian effort.

Many coorporations have come up with millions of doantions and aid especially for disaster relief situations. But do these people really have a ulterior motive other than actually bringing the people out of their misery...??
Indeed many who require donations...be it countries non-governmental organisations etc... do look up to every volunteer as a source of money but this is because there are already many who go down to help out physically and the problem is that no matter how much donations can be provided they do not neccessairily reach those who need it.. it could also be because they might have he idea that they could actually be able to help themselves if only they had the resources to do so...

but i would really like to know... are the donations provided by coorporations selfish and does that mean their volunteering to help to the problem bad? i mean, eitherways they still do contribute to them... they do benefit in the end... but could the coorporations choice on who to aid be beneficial to a chosen few while the rest are still left to rot?
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