The World Around Us

Why I believe in international volunteering

Country: Mozambique by Lisette


image volunteeringI wrote this blog post last week, before some events changed our stay in Mozambique drastically. Because I continue to believe international volunteering can and does make a difference, I wanted to share this blog post with you nonetheless. The events of last week are described in my next post.

Like I said a while ago in my blog article about changes, my work place and pace changed. Since March I have been working at the VSO Office. First, I was part of an exciting internal project that gave me opportunity to work with Ineke, who came specifically for this to Mozambique, as evaluator.

In this capacity as independent evaluators, we spoke to many stakeholders using a variety of research tools. It was satisfying to speak to staff, volunteers, partner organizations and beneficiaries. As a volunteer, I have had the opportunity in India to work with passionate ad dedicated colleagues towards improving people’s lives. This was a good opportunity for me to see the ripple effect of international volunteering again, but from a different angle and with a different focus (partnership development).

Second, I have been steadily working with staff on a couple of manuals that required updating as well as providing support for their administrative system. As always, this requires some change management and will take longer than I actually have the chance of being actively part of. I am certain of its success though for we have a couple of real champions at work.

Working at the office in support of international volunteers is such a different experience than being a volunteer myself. In combination with the work as volunteer representative in India and last month as evaluator, this work is giving me an encompassing and invaluable experience. No kidding, I have seen the 360 degree view of international volunteering!

Though it has been clear from the start, in 2006, that there are immense challenges to volunteering overseas, I believe in this particular form of sustainable development.

Why? Simple, because this experience helps people open up their eyes and view more of their world than they did before. I am not talking about volunteers only, indeed I am also speaking of people that work with volunteers – at the volunteer agency and at the partner organization as well as family, friends and other social circles of volunteers.

I am fond of saying “volunteers provide a peek into another world and this facilitates a wider understanding and celebration of diversity”. To me, respecting diversity is respecting humanity. Respect is the foundation for supporting neighbours – those across the street and across the world – and work towards peace, dignity and prosperity.

All the little things volunteers do have a greater impact than they realize at that very moment. A volunteer may inspire a friend to volunteer as well, a family member may support the same cause with deeper understanding. A staff member may aspire to grow further and study, a community member realizes immigrants face a multitude of issues, etc.

And that is what I appreciate so much; not only are you helping in a small way to improve lives, others are also in a small way working towards this goal. If we all work together, it seems plausible we can eradicate poverty and war. It is then no longer a dream; (international) volunteers are living the dream!

So come on, don’t you want to be part of the dream?