Volunteering

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Sep 27th, 2005, 12:56 AM
  #1
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Volunteering

Bad news or good news?
Is it detrimental to Africa or not?
Am I better off helping out in Thailand with the Tssunami relief where I know I will be needed
rubikscube is offline  
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Sep 27th, 2005, 01:32 AM
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Add up the pros and cons of various courses and throw in a bit of your conscience. Why should Thailand get priority over the Aceh region of Sumatra, parts of Sri Lanka or other places? Are you going to give priority to a region which has more tourist attractions (probably Thailand)? , while Aceh was certainly the hardest hit? Or maybe, by now, it's a bit late to add your revenue to any places hit by the tsunami. They could have used your help much earlier. I'd suggest that by now, it doesn't matter very much where you decide to go. Africa certainly continues to need whatever revenue assistance tourists can offer.

At least you, unlike many others, seem to be worrying about how your travel plans will help somebody less fortunate than you. I was not surprised, but still cannot understand, why so many people stopped travelling for many months after 9/11. Mind you, I was glad they did, because it helped me have another African safari (I couldn't afford it that year, but safari operators were so desperate for clients that they offered very, very special deals). Don't get me wrong. 9/11 shocked me. The first thing I did was put a call through to American friends in New York to find out if they were OK. When they didn't answer the phone, I emailed, and within a few hours, got a reassuring reply.

What the whole episode highlighted for me, though, was the strange attitude most people have to travel. There is no way that I would decide not to travel if, say, the Sydney Opera House was blown up with the loss of several hundred lives on an opening night. What would be the point? I could get run over by a bus the next day; such an event would be more likely than some terrorist taking my life somewhere abroad. Besides, every individual decision not to travel amounts to a victory for the terrorists.


afrigalah is offline  
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Sep 27th, 2005, 04:28 AM
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The success of any volunteering trip to Africa depends on how you go about it.

Since I grew up there I have rather strong opinions about volunteering in Africa.

First of all, do you have specific skills that can benefit a local community? Medical, engineering, formal education, mechanical, and so on. It is rather pointless to show up with less skills than people you are trying to help! Westerners often underestimate the resourcefulness of local people.

Secondly, use your money wisely. Some volunteers pay thousands of dollars to overseas companies to go to Africa and volunteer! This seems to be very popular in the UK. Why not contact a few local churches, hospitals, clinics, schools, etc and arrange your trip direct? They need your money more than the overseas companies with the big corner offices and expensive mgmt overhead.

I do believe in volunteering. For example, I have a ton of respect for the international doctors and nurses at KCMC hospital in Moshi, Tanzania. These good people can earn 10 times more money in their home countries yet they came to Africa to help and to educate.

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
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Sep 27th, 2005, 12:38 PM
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Sorry if I've confused you with my rant about people's travel motives. I was confused by your singling out Thailand from regions worse hit by the tsunami. Climbhighsleeplow's advice is very sensible...but the question remains: why Thailand and not Aceh?
afrigalah is offline  
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Sep 27th, 2005, 02:39 PM
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I'll add to what climbhighsleeplow wrote. I've been on both sides of this. I've been a volunteer (through Earthwatch and independently), I've tried to use volunteers, and I've looked at the volunteer vs. local hires decision for organizations working in Africa.

One of the reason that organizations charge so much for "volunteer" program is that the typical volunteer (1) needs a lot of training, supervision and support (2) needs to be accomodated, fed, and transported around an area. The transportation in particular is expensive, meaning the organization has to maintain vehicles and drivers (3) volunteer program fees also typically support the charitable or research program (at least for Earthwatch-type programs.)

Typically, for the cost of accomodating a volunteer, the projects could hire a qualified local person. For this reason alone (let alone on top of the fact that the volunteer is only there for a short period of time...doesn't know the language...needs alot of training, oversight and babysitting) we've gone with local hires. But there are special, committed volunteers who can do amazing things for a project. (It's just hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. and you end up with alot of chaff even if you can find some wheat.)

So rubikscube, what kind of experience and skills do you have? What makes you think that your volunteering would be valuable to an area? Are you prepared to pay your own way and be self-sufficient in any area you choose to volunteer in?

PS-- I bet there ARE still major needs in the tsunami areas. And it is important to continue to support people there.
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