Lessons learned from voluntourism provider African Impact – how does your organization match up on these 5 points???
The Happy Africa Foundation working in partnership with African Impact in placing “Voluntourists” on the foundation’s sustainable community and conservation development projects have learned several invaluable lessons during the two years we have been working together.
1. Getting started on a new project: Do your homework.
Sustainable community development projects need to be carefully researched before a project is simply started in a community/conservation area. For example: In Livingstone, Zambia, we determined through Community Participatory Based research what the community wanted, but more importantly what they needed. We have tailored our plans for assisting the local communities based on these discussions, which will make our work that much more effective in the long run.
2. With volunteers, you get out what you put in…
“Voluntourists” are carefully placed on projects where they will be of most use to the community but they need to be guided throughout their placement We have found that the greatest results come through the combination of placing a volunteer in a community where they feel needed, but also caring for them at the same time and having structured project systems through which volunteers’ efforts are most effectively distributed within communities.
3. Measured aims and objectives are needed for each project:
This gives volunteers a deeper understanding of the cultural differences, the challenges the community faces, what the foundation and African Impact are working towards and how we plan to get there. It makes the volunteer see the bigger picture and share in the holistic vision of the project. To assist in this, we have what we call the “Project Manual” for each project that volunteers are working with. The manual details the research that went into the project, the history behind it, and what the ultimate goals are.
4. Check yourselves as you go along:
Clear Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) strategies are needed This keeps the projects flexible, dynamic and fluid, adapting to the needs to the community, changing society and cultural demands. When we carry this out, we consult all the stakeholders in the communities we work with (mothers, fathers, youth, elders, teachers, community/social workers, nurses, doctors, government ministers, local councils, other NGO partners), the volunteers, and the project managers themselves. This way we get an organic, grassroots insight into the project and the true feelings and opinions on how it is running and what is happening.
5. Things in Africa take time! – TIA = This is Africa!
99% Of our projects have gone over the initial timeframe we planned for, but the main thing is that we get there in the end! We try to explain this to our volunteers when they arrive, but only after living through it do they really understand and wholeheartedly commit to the goals of the project they are involved with.