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Students and International Volunteering Alice Robinson International Development Coordinator Student Hubs

Student Hubs is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 1122328

Supported by:

•  Global industry worth around £11billion a year •  $20million revenue a year from some of the bigger organisations •  In some cases, of a $3000 programme fee paid by a volunteer, the host organisation receives just $9 per volunteer per week

Plan 1.  Problems and pitfalls – and how to avoid them 2.  Having a positive impact – quick tips 3.  Discussion space 4.  What next?

About Us Vision: Impact International’s vision is for a more sustainable and impactful international volunteering sector. Mission: To support students to learn and volunteer effectively.

Aims We aim to empower students: •  To learn and understand more about international volunteering •  To make informed decisions about where and how to volunteer •  To make the most out of their placements, and for this to lead to long-term engagement with social change Ultimately, we want to enable students to be more effective, responsible and critically engaged volunteers, which in turn will have a positive impact on the communities they work with.

1. Problems and pitfalls – and how to avoid them

Child Protection •  High turnover of volunteers •  Lack of background checks or safeguarding •  Double standards in teaching •  “Orphanage Tourism” ( •  Appropriate background checks •  What would you expect in your own community?

“As a result of tourists’ ‘good intentions’ Cambodia’s orphans have become a money-making tourist attraction. And so long as there is demand, more and more orphanages will open, and more and more children will be taken from their families and communities to fill them.” (

Community ownership •  Risk of being culturally inappropriate •  Paternalistic attitude •  Local people are the experts on what they want and need! •  How was the project designed? How involved is the host community? Who asked for foreign volunteers to be there?

Lack of sustainability •  Creating a need which must constantly be filled by volunteers •  No “exit plan” for continuing the project •  Lack of community buy - in •  Do volunteers add capacity to existing organisations? •  What will happen after they leave? •  Does the project work through local community and organisational structures?

Customer-centric rather than community-centric •  Private profit > community need •  Incentivises the organisation to take any volunteer (regardless of suitability) •  Customer Mindset •  Is there an application process? •  Why was the project set up?

Displacement and dependency •  ‘Free labour’ •  Report from South Africa ( HSRC_Review_Article-195.phtml) •  Giving things away can destroy local markets •  Cost to the host community or organisation •  Where does the money go? •  Are volunteers taking local jobs?

Cultural Imperialism •  Narrow view of the developing world •  Propagating patronising and harmful images of the developing world •  How does the organisation present themselves and the host community? •  Adopt a learning attitude!

“In the 21st century we should not still be thinking that people from abroad can arrive in a country whose language, culture, lifestyle, economics, education, politics and climate is totally different from their own and expect to contribute something useful and worthwhile in a matter of weeks or months. The implicit assumption is that foreigners can achieve what Indians have not been able to do for the last hundred years.” (Individual interviewee – Indian Volunteers for Community Service (IVCS) (From a research study by VSO).

“It may make the person feel good about themselves…but it doesn’t make the community feel good about themselves, because they’re being objectified and only being seen as having problems.” -Mireille Mather, Foundation for Sustainable Development

Monitoring and Evaluation •  Currently, huge lack of impact measurement amongst international volunteering organisations •  Who has defined “success”, and how is it measured? •  What Impact Measurement strategies are in place? •  How do they use their findings?

2. Having a positive impact 1.  Skill matching or skill development 2.  Don’t just google! 3.  Research well and ask lots of questions 4.  Application Process

Support and structure •  Volunteers should get a good role description and induction •  Agreement with the host community – is there an MOU in place, clear expectations for the volunteer, etc.

Preparation •  Understanding context and culture •  Learn some of the language •  Training should be provided

Learning experience • 


“Many of us assume, because we come from wealthier places with better education systems, that we can come into any new place without knowing much about the culture or the people, and we can fix things…. Development work is complex and takes time, and the people we are visiting have just as much, if not more to teach us than we have to teach them.” -Daniela Papi ( voluntourism_b_1525532.html)

Discussion groups •  Break out into groups of 6-7 •  Discussion points: •  The main concerns coming from students (useful questions to be answered) •  Barriers to critically engaged international volunteering by students •  How to better support students in international volunteering •  Supporting student-led international volunteering organisations

More about Impact International! •  Events •  Training •  Discussion sessions

•  Online awareness-raising •  Social Media •  Videos •  Blogs

•  Resources •  Research •  Promoting long term engagement •  Competitions

Collaboration and future opportunities •  Information packs for SU’s and volunteering centres, including:

•  FAQs based on discussion sessions •  Information about volunteering overseas for staff and for students (how to do it well, what resources and support are on offer) •  “20 questions” – for differentiating between organisations and opportunities

•  Supporting students collaboratively •  Training sessions •  Online resources •  Discussion events

•  Online forum for questions and discussion

Get in touch! @impact_intl

Impact international wiscv presentation  
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