Responsible Volunteering Overseas

In response to today’s BBC News article on volunteering overseas, we’d like to stress that nothing about volunteering with VESL is ‘voluntourism’…  it’s challenging work, and of real and measurable benefit to those schools and communities we work with.  All volunteers are interviewed and we don’t just send anyone willing to cough up the funding (unlike many voluntourism companies).  Whilst we recognise that in taking part in a volunteer programme overseas, volunteers are going to gain from that experience, it will be as a result of the well-received hard work they have put in that any reward is gained.

The BBC article also touches on issues of Neo-colonial attitudes and an “our way is best” mentality.  We agree that this kind of attitude is of detriment to communities and this is why our volunteer programmes are run to ‘support’ local education and our volunteers are trained before going overseas.  Our volunteers are there as resources, not there to re-write a school’s teaching policy or to replace local teachers.  They aim to enrich lessons with language games and exercises which engage students and help to unlock the learning already going on in those classrooms.

The schools we work with have consistently requested repeat volunteers for over a decade now and the lasting long-term benefits, even from short-term volunteering projects, are repeatedly observed time after time.  Our projects are carefully selected by our Country Managers who are local residents and they choose projects where they believe VESL volunteers can make a difference.

The BBC article touches on volunteering overseas being a one off unsustainable event… We hope our volunteers, once returned from being overseas, will continue to support VESL and our projects, we have a huge amount of support from our past volunteers who help out at our Information & Selection events, training and have done additional fundraising for our Wild Fund on return. We hope our volunteers will remain active in the global development community once returned, and use the lessons they learned overseas to make a difference at home and continue to raise awareness of development issues.

We aren’t disagreeing with the BBC on this one…  The rise of voluntourism and those profit making companies dressed up as charitable organisations who send inappropriately selected volunteers into poorly set-up projects can be of detriment to those communities they aim to support.  It’s just a shame the article has to paint the entire field of volunteering overseas with this brush.

If you’re not sure whether to believe that VESL is a worthwhile organisation to volunteer with or not, you could try posting your questions to our facebook page or by tweeting us.  We’re sure our past volunteers would be happy to confirm that VESL is not a ‘Voluntourism’ organisation and that our projects are worthwhile and of real benefit to schools…  We’d also be happy to talk to anyone who has any questions about our projects, how we select volunteers or any of aspect of volunteering with VESL. Please email us or comment below and we will get back to you.

In fact we’re still hoping to find a few more volunteers for 3+ month projects from October / January so please do get in touch if you would like to find out more.

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