Taking Your Agency Global
Follow the trail
Contributed by Rebecca Jewell, Program Director for the International Volunteer Program, a 6-week volunteer exchange with the UK and the US. For more information about hosting a volunteer this summer, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
See Volunteering England's pdf document on Accepting volunteers from overseas (if link problem, go to VE's Good Practice Bank). The Immigration Directorate used to have a specific handbook section on voluntary workers from overseas - may reappear.
- Our main volunteer management page.
For agencies with intensive programs during a fixed time of the year, an international volunteer might be an ideal solution to the need for volunteers. However, hosting an international volunteer involves some advance planning. Heres a quick how to on international volunteers
Before they arrive:
- The most successful host agencies have used volunteers and/or interns in the past. They have infrastructure set up to address the questions and training needs of someone who is able to work full time. The needs of the agency are diverse enough that a volunteer can express interest in a variety of areas and the agency has a niche for them (ie in the office, with the clients etc.).
- Some volunteer exchange schemes ask the host agency to provide room & board for the volunteer. Different agencies handle this differently. Some ask their staff to host. Others tap board members or donors. Agencies have also contacted their communities, churches, and volunteer bureaux to help them to find a host family.
- · The ideal host family is active in their community, sports, or other activities. They have time and means to spend with the volunteer. They are interested in a new culture, knowledgeable about their own society and culture and interested in sharing this knowledge. Host families are also flexible and able to accommodate a more independent volunteer who is interested in cultivating relationships on their own. The host agency, volunteer program and host family should all be clear on each others responsibilities in the project.
Upon their arrival:
- Host agencies and their staff understand that it takes some time to acclimate to a new place. Some volunteers from abroad may be speaking a language other than their own and need some time to get their English tongues.
- Training will be available at the agency staffs convenience, and will be appropriate for the work the volunteer is expected to do.
- Staff and clients know that the volunteer is arriving and are prepared for a new set of hands.
- Much like a new staff member, a normal amount of Getting to know you time will be necessary. Outgoing staff members and volunteers may be quite valuable at this time to help the volunteer integrate and find out whats what.
During their stay:
- Volunteers will be interested in exploring their new area. If anyone in the organization has plans to explore a local interest, inviting the volunteer is an excellent gesture.
- Encourage your volunteer to make presentations on their country to your clients and/or staff members. They may have a new perspective on issues your clients face or challenges your staff deals with.
- Confront difficulties, confusions, problems head-on. Volunteers are interested in growth experiences and are eager to learn, about their host countries, agencies as well as themselves.
- Hopefully, youve found this experience to be enriching and helpful. Saying goodbye to this new member of your team might be difficult. However, making sure that you exchange contact information can soften the blow.
- Make certain to have staff and/or volunteers to pick up the duties the volunteer has been doing during their stay.
- Ask the volunteer about their experiences, you may find some simple ways to improve your programs or your volunteer projects.
- Networking: your volunteer may return to their country and do similar work to yours. This can be a valuable source of information and resources within your area of work.
Hosting an international volunteer can be en exciting, fascinating opportunity to learn more about another country, expose your clients to broader horizons, and lighten your work load during dense programming times.
For more information about finding an international volunteer, have a look at Idealist, VolunteerInternational, World Volunteer Web or other agencies on the VolResource Volunteering Opportunites section.