Chidi planned to run a summer project. She has heard through a friend abroad that there were many young people in wealthy schools in the capital, or in Europe and America, who would like to volunteer with African children in their summer holidays. They would even pay to cover their costs when they were there. Chidi thought this seemed a bit too good to be true. She spoke to a couple of other NGOs who shared their experiences:

The Ayo project welcomed 12 university students from Europe for two weeks. They had slept in a local church hall. The girls had been meant to teach French and Maths to the local children, but they had been unreliable. It seemed that most of them had been expecting a holiday. Some didn’t like the food and others seemed to be more interested in taking Instagram pictures than actually getting to know the children. Many had been so overwhelmed by the living conditions of local people that they seemed paralysed. They had never seen anything like it and were shocked and overwhelmed. It was only in the last few days that they started to do what they had come to do – teach the children. The woman who had led the project was totally exhausted at the end of the project and said they could have achieved more on their own. 

The Malaika project had been approached by a group of students from the international school in the capital. They wanted their students to understand the real challenges facing less privileged girls in their country. However, when the city girls arrived they looked so different. The divide was so obvious with their perfectly braided hair, new clothes and how they walked and talked. The city girls felt superior and that the local girls should be grateful to learn from them. They looked down on the local food and spoke loudly about how much better their school was. During mealtimes together, the city girls spoke boastfully about their lives. The city girls left feeling that they had ‘contributed’ whilst they had just rubbed their privilege in and left the local girls feeling self-conscious. After this experience, they had agreed to take two city girls as volunteers for a month-long enough that they really had the chance to learn. They also did a workshop at the beginning where the city girls were reminded that they were at the project to learn from the local girls as much as they were to learn from them. They had also told the school that these girls had to fundraise at least the same amount as their living expenses to contribute to the project. This meant that the time that Malaika’s staff spent supervising the volunteers was paid for, and didn’t mean that money was being spent on their supervision that was meant for other activities.

Reflection Questions

  1. Have you considered having groups of volunteers?
  2. If you have, what was good or bad about the experience?
  3. How many resources would it take for you to welcome these volunteers?
  4. How do you think they could help you?

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