The VSA was invited to attend the SAGE Net Workshop on International Volunteering last week. Most of the participants are hosts for the Weltwärts Exchange Programme and wanted to exchange their experiences with their volunteers to learn from each other and discuss benefits and challenges of working with volunteers. The VSA had volunteers (local and international) in the past and also presently. Most of our volunteers are part of the Rhodes University Community Engagement Programme who work quite differently to the international volunteers.
The main difference is that they spend less time volunteering and are usually less educated and experienced which makes it more difficult for hosts to really benefit from them. It would help if CE volunteers would be introduced to the basic ideas of volunteering in a special workshop beforehand. The more benefit is gained by the volunteers who often, for the first time in their lives, encounter real work and life situations outside school and university. So, despite the difficulties, we think it important to work with volunteers to open up horizons and show opportunities.
Most of the hosts also discussed the difficulties which arise when local staff and international volunteers have to work together, because of culture clashes (language, dress codes, personal relationships, etc.) and different expectations and goals. But all in all, everyone agreed that such differences should rather be seen as an advantage than a problem, because different tasks can be assigned to more competent people for example.
Thank you, SAGE Net, for this very helpful and informative workshop that also gave good opportunities for networking. We are looking forward to have Hobbiton as our partner for awareNet content on board.