Have you ever considered volunteering? Whether it’s for a church, school, or another place, many organizations benefit from (and in some cases, completely depend on) volunteers to help. Volunteers also benefit from donating their time and effort to a cause they support: they gain a better understanding of the situation and culture surrounding the cause –– especially if it’s a volunteer program abroad. If you volunteer in a country where another language is spoken, you’ll also probably start to pick it up and actually learn it!
For a deeper experience, consider a volunteer vacation, also known as voluntourism. Organizations such as Global Volunteers, Globe Aware, and Projects Abroad run one-week-or-longer family programs in the United States and abroad. Some allow children as young as six; others, like Earthwatch, have a minimum age of 15. Most organizations also provide cultural activities (such as language lessons) and tourism opportunities (the Lipsons visited Machu Picchu while volunteering in Peru).
Jennifer Puyo from Projects Abroad sat down with Molly Stern, Communications Consultant at the IVPA to discuss the organization’s decision to end orphanage volunteering placements. In the discussion, Jennifer talks about how leadership came to make the decision to end this type of volunteering, other ways Projects Abroad supports communities and families around the world, and alternative placements for volunteers hoping to work with kids.
Steve Atamian from Cross Cultural Solutions discusses the importance around the IVPA standards and why volunteers should ask organizations tough questions before committing to their volunteer abroad programs. Read more about the important IVPA standards on our webpage here and learn more about the incredible programs that Cross Cultural Solutions offer here.
The staff at AYUDA were kind enough to sit down with me and record the first podcast for the IVPA to discuss the wisdom they’ve gained over the years in sending people with diabetes (and other disabilities) abroad to partner with communities on educational projects surrounding diabetes. As more organizations work towards making their programs accessible to people with disabilities or who may need accommodations, AYUDA has been doing this type of work for a long time and sheds light on some of the considerations for both organizations and prospective volunteers before going abroad. Thanks to both Melanie Goldring and Arianna Tuomey for sharing their perspectives on this topic.
For more information on how to volunteer with AYUDA, please visit their website: http://volunteers.ayudainc.net
JK Rowling, famed Harry Potter author, has recently been posted on twitter about the dangers of voluntourism and orphanage projects. Rowling has founded a charity that seeks to end institutionalization of children called Lumos. The Lumos site states, “Of the 8 million children in institutions worldwide, more than 90% are not orphans. Most have families who love them and want them but they are driven into institutions because of poverty and discrimination on the grounds of disability or ethnicity.” The charity works with stakeholders including governments, communities, caregivers, and families to remove the institution and replace it with a network of support for families. Rowling has been tweeting about voluntourism projects in orphanages and how unwittingly they can be damaging to the children and support corrupt institutions.
While it is important to be aware of the dangers of orphanage volunteer projects the media has been portraying all voluntourism projects as harmful. Equating orphanage tourism as the same as all international volunteer experiences does not paint a clear picture of the field of international volunteerism. There are a lot of community-led, sustainable, and mutually beneficial volunteer projects around the world. A key message to the public is that potential volunteers should educate themselves and research before they embark on a volunteer trip.
There are many quality organizations doing great work in true partnership. There are also organizations, like IVPA, working to create standards of excellence in the field of international volunteering.
International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit association dedicated to promoting awareness and access to quality volunteer abroad programs. IVPA member organizations must uphold the IVPA’s Principles and Practices as guidelines for good programming as well as meet stringent membership criteria.
The instagram account “BarbieSavior” is less than three months old but has already garnered a 95k following and been reported on in the BBC, Huffington Post and The Guardian.
“BarbieSavior” is a satire account poking fun at the naïve “white-rescue” attitude of young volunteers traveling to Africa or other less-developed regions.
In the tradition of good satire, it is funny, while calling out contradictions and problems with voluntourism. Yet, there is the danger with satire that instead of having an impact of change, the object of the satire becomes only an object of ridicule. Those laughing become self-congratulatory and the dialogue doesn’t move forward.
So how do we have change? Here are some tips on how to not become a “White-Savior Barbie”.
Research before you go: Research research research! There are many options out there to do good in a way that is collaborative, sustainable, and mutually beneficial. Choose a program that is dedicated to quality and will discuss concerns about sustainability and partnership. Consider organizations that have gone through a vetting process and are committed to standards like those who are part of International Volunteer Programs Association. Talk to former volunteers and learn as much as you can before you go. If the project involves vulnerable youth or medical interventions, consider the organizations and your own qualifications. Educate yourself on the ethical issues surrounding volunteer projects and make sure you are choosing a project that aligns well with your values.
Check your privilege: In other words, reflect on advantages you may enjoy because of your social standing. One great way consider privilege is to ask yourself if your behavior would be allowed back home in a similar circumstance. Be conscientious with the camera. Be humble and learn cultural customs and norms
Realize you are not going to save the world. While it is honorable to want to have a lasting impact, consider the complicated and complex issues surrounding poverty, social justice, and global health. Consider your own experience and qualifications and realize that volunteering abroad may just be the beginning of your journey.
This week’s #VolunteerVoices comes from Tyrel Nelson a Leader-in-Training for Global Citizens Network.
Receipts, Receptions, and Perceptions
The young woman behind the counter returns my list. “¿Algo más?” she asks.
I shake my head.
She pulls out a calculator and contemplates the pile of groceries in front of her. While she punches away, the post-trip expense report strikes the forefront of my mind. The girl eventually reveals the total, and I respond with the dreaded question: “¿Me puede dar un recibo?” Can you give me a receipt?
Her wide eyes are nothing new. I’ve already made several supply runs for our Global Citizens Network team —visiting tiny tiendas in Xecam (Shay-com) and neighboring La Estancia—and every store clerk has had the same confused look. I’ve picked up that no one in the highlands has this expectation, let alone a cash register to do the job for them. So the slips are handwritten, probably another reason why the Guatemalans haven’t offered me a receipt prior to my asking.
Without hesitation, however, the lady slaps a spiral notebook on the glass and opens it to a clean sheet. She begins a detailed bill, pricing out every single product. I tell her she can just write “abarrotes” (groceries), the total due, the date, and her signature. She ignores me. She’s a half page in when I try to end it once again. She smiles. Her autograph reaches the bottom edge a couple minutes later. But before she tears the paper from the notebook, she returns to her calculator, carefully reentering the numbers to ensure the sum hasn’t changed. I finally unfold a wad of quetzals and hand it to her. She hands me my change along with her masterpiece.
“Este es el mejor recibo que he recibido,” I answer, smirking because the phrase sounds funny while I utter it. This is the best receipt that I have received.
I’m not sure if she finds my statement as humorous as I do, but she sports an ear-to-ear grin nonetheless.
As a Leader-in-Training, I had to keep my head on a swivel for twelve days. Therefore, it didn’t take me long to realize that everybody knew each other in Xecam. I actually discovered the next day that the lady in the store was Apolonia, daughter of Nicolasa, whose house in which four of us stayed during our time in the village. And Nicolasa, along with her mother and sisters, graciously prepared the meals for our entire group. But it wasn’t just these women who treated us so kindly. I took in how everyone we met in the community took us in.
Whether it was through exchanging pleasantries with passersby or swapping smiles with a local, our hosts made us—ten foreigners from different parts of the U.S. and Canada—feel welcome. I was reminded that a “community” can extend beyond borders from this experience, an experience I already find myself missing.
Xecam, Cantel, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
July 17-28, 2015
Now Accepting Applications for AYUDA 2016 Summer Programs!
Become an Agent of Change Abroad
Join us and be a part of this unique Youth Empowerment and Health Program
|Introducing Our Newest Program: En El Camino Volunteer Program: July 9th – July 19th
|Multiple Locations, Dominican Republic: Introducing a brand new volunteer summer program! This program is aimed at those who want to combine diabetes outreach with a love travel and exploration. Come “on the road” with AYUDA and Aprendiendo a Vivir (AAV) and get to know the Dominican Republic while making a difference in the diabetes community. Since our hallmark program Campo Amigo Dominicano is based in Santo Domingo, it cannot serve everybody around the country. AAV has requested that AYUDA work with them on a pilot program to take the educational and empowerment experience of camp to other provinces. Volunteers will travel with local Dominican youth leaders, representatives of AAV, and AYUDA staff members to the following provinces/cities to run day-long educational outreach and local capacity-building programs: San Cristobal, Baní, La Vega, Gaspar Hernández, and San Pedro. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn from people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes and help provide them with the tools that motivate them to live happier, healthier lives.|
|Ganémosle Volunteer Program: June 4th – June 13th|
|Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Volunteers will support AYUDA’s partner organization AAV in their national diabetes prevention and exercise campaign “Ganémosle la Carrera a la diabetes” (Let’s beat diabetes campaign!) and fitness event. The event includes a 10K run, a 5k Run/Walk and a mini-camp for youth living with type 1 diabetes. Click here to see the 2015 video.
In this busy 10-day program, volunteers, led by AYUDA staff, will gain hands-on experience working on a national grassroots diabetes public awareness campaign. Volunteers will participate in diabetes outreach activities that include visits to schools, gyms, parks, and local media outlets.Those with an interest in fitness, health education and media and communications are encouraged to apply!
|Campo Amigo Dominicano Volunteer Program: June 18th – July 6th|
|Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: In this intensive program, volunteers will collaborate with AYUDA’s partner organization AAV. Volunteers, led by AYUDA staff, will work closely with AAV local staff, medical students and rising Dominican youth leaders to plan and implement community outreach projects. These projects will motivate and support young people living with type 1 diabetes, as well as their families. The 3 week program will culminate with the 9th annual weekend family diabetes camp, Campo Amigo Dominicano, where volunteers will work with local AAV youth leaders to serve as counselors and camp staff.|
|Learn more about our programs from our volunteers|
|Check out our Volunteer Blogs and Social Media Recap to learn more about the programs in 2015.|
|Are you ready to become an agent of change?|
|AYUDA is unique because we are committed to empowering our volunteers to become agents of social change. We combine an intensive training program, beginning the moment a volunteer is accepted into our program, with an impactful in-country experience. Therefore, qualified volunteers must have a multicultural outlook, be passionate and energetic team players, and most importantly must be adaptable.
Please note! Interested volunteers are welcome to apply to more than 1 program. Qualified volunteers selected to participate in combined programs (2 or 3 programs) will have reduced fundraising commitments ($2,000 less for 3 programs and $1,000 less for 2 combined programs).
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Volunteers, Stephanie Boyle, at email@example.com.
Juntos somos más Fuertes! Together we are Stronger!
This week’s Volunteer Voices comes from Will Epperson, a volunteer with AYUDA.
By now I have the routine memorized. Measure out the amount of insulin in air in the syringe. Insert air into insulin vial. Withdraw insulin. Inject. Count to 10. Withdraw syringe. But as I run through these steps in my mind while I prepare to give my first insulin shot to someone else in the town of San Pedro, they become much more complicated than a simple checklist. I have been putting my own pump sites in for years, but injecting someone else with insulin—in Spanish—requires a whole new level of diabetes management skills.
My journey to the Dominican Republic with AYUDA Inc. was filled with moments like these. I learned about how to administer insulin injections to other people (in Spanish), how to check others blood sugars (in Spanish), how to navigate Dominican culture, and even how to speak a little Spanish. I was surrounded by smart, motivated people who genuinely wanted to make a change for the good.
The majority of our time in the Dominican Republic was spent in the capitol city of Santo Domingo. We lived here, ate here, taught here, and learned here and by the end I felt I had a very deep knowledge of the city. Many of the kids that we worked with were from Santo Domingo but some were from other towns that were over an hour away. The first week in country was spent planning for camp that weekend and getting to know each other and the local volunteers from (AAV). We had multiple meetings with Tía Sandra, one of the leaders of AAV to discuss planning activities for camp and the theme of camp: Puedo Ser. In English, this means “I can be” and served as our guiding principle at the camps. We wanted to convey how living with diabetes is only a part of ones life and does not hinder someone from being whatever they want to be.
The first weekend we only had camp one day for Día de la Familia, or family day. We did different activities like freeze tag with blood sugar ranges or a role reversal where the kids checked their parents’ blood sugars. We were surprised that many of the kids already had exposure to much of what we were teaching them but they were all eager to learn more and refine their knowledge. After activities and before lunch we would gather the campers to check blood sugars or glicemias and do insulin injections. I was working in Grupo Verde so we had the youngest campers. At first I though that it would be easier to communicate with the youngest kids since my Spanish is probably most on par with that of a 3rd grader. However, this proved not to be the case. Despite our communication barrier, I loved getting to know the campers both at this first weekend of camp and the second weekend. They particularly loved when we would give them piggy back rides and then race back and forth on the basketball court.
The Monday after our first camp day we were able to take a day trip to the beach to relax after camp the day before. The rest of the week was spent planning for camp and doing outreach. Our first outreach day was to San Cristobol, a mountainous town about 45 minutes away from Santo Domingo. The town has dirt roads and mostly tin houses. We were traveling there to meet the locals with diabetes and to introduce ourselves. It was incredible how excited everyone was to meet us. Many of the locals had been waiting at the clinic all morning for our arrival. Once there, we checked glicemias and then got to know each of the locals. The next day, we went to San Pedro to do another day of outreach. At San Pedro, we set up in the parking lot of a local hospital to host a workshop about diabetes with some of the local patients. I was in the exercise group so we taught about the benefits of exercise for maintaining healthy glucose levels. It was a refreshing change of pace from working with the kids the weekend before. After we finished with outreach we spent the rest of the week planning for camp, making posters, and learning the camp dances.
The second weekend is when we had our big camp session, with camp on both Saturday and Sunday. It was a fun-filled weekend full of water balloons, dancing, chaos, and learning. One of the most memorable experiences of the program was at the end of the day on Sunday as camp was drawing to a close. All of the volunteers lined up in a big semi-circle and the campers and their families came up and thanked each of us. I was thanked by some people who I had never seen before nor spoken to. It really showed me how much it meant to the campers that we were there to help teach them about how to live with diabetes.
AYUDA has positively impacted my life on numerous levels. It has given me the opportunity to help others learn about a condition that I have personally lived with for numerous years and create positive change in their lives. It has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a foreign culture with incredible people. And it has allowed me to connect with smart, driven, and cool people from across the country. AYUDA had been a very memorable experience and I hope to stay involved with the organization for many years to come.
Lastly, thank you to everyone that donated to my fundraising for AYUDA! Thank you for making this opportunity possible for me and it is thanks to you that AYUDA can continue doing the work that we do.
To learn more about AYUDA click here.