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10/06/2005 03:10:21 AM · #1
I was told I am meant to go to Africa, that it will be life altering for me (Its a long story ~grins~ dont ask lol)

... so i'm wondering if any of you have been there.. or are there and if you might know of some reputable volunteer projects/opportunities.. i'm not afraid of hard work..and I love kids.. (Education is in social work) I can for sure spend a month.. potentially 2. Any places I should absolutely avoid.. or ones to check out.. both for photography as well as personal safety

I'm hoping to go in the new year but it will depend on the need and timeline of where ever I end up ...

(will also have my new camera by then..be a great place to learn to use it *cited happy dance*)

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 06:58:22.
10/06/2005 06:41:36 PM · #2
bump just in case...
10/06/2005 06:47:53 PM · #3
Wow, are you on the run? ;) Spunds like you just need to go to the big area known as Africa and now need to figure out where and why. Maybe just a tease of more info and you might get some help or someone may volunteer to go with ya. Nope ya have fun.
10/06/2005 06:50:44 PM · #4
If she doesn't show up in this thread, try contacting Kavey - she may have some helpful info.
10/06/2005 06:53:02 PM · #5
I will PM you with some info over the weekend. That is if South Africa is in your scope too.
10/06/2005 06:56:47 PM · #6
My friend worked for the UN in Liberia and Sierra Leone and had some pretty horrifying accounts. Granted he was working with human rights issues and war crimes, but in general he didnt feel too secure in those countries.
10/06/2005 06:59:41 PM · #7
Originally posted by PhantomEWO:

Wow, are you on the run? ;) Spunds like you just need to go to the big area known as Africa and now need to figure out where and why. Maybe just a tease of more info and you might get some help or someone may volunteer to go with ya. Nope ya have fun.


Laughing... I guess i'm kinda on the run... in need of some adventure in my life and Africa is calling ;) No set agenda or boundaries.. just feeling the need to travel and at the same time potentially be helpful in that journey.. cuz what i give in life.. i get :)

Gibun: Absolutely South Africa is in my scope as well.. I'd appreciate the help and i look forward to your PM :)

MK.. thanks for the contact.. if I dont hear from her.. i'll for sure follow up.. appreciated @}-;-----

Moodville.. If i could i'd volunteer for the UN as well... I'm not reckless with my safety but when I believe in the cause i'm not easily swayed.

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 19:01:39.
10/06/2005 07:10:46 PM · #8
Acquaintances of ours work out in Africa (Ghana I think) helping to build schools etc. I'll try and find out more for you.

Africa is a huge continent with a huge variety of problems, from the North African countries of Morocco and Algiers, Egypt and Sudan down to South Afica and the hundreds of countries in between. I think you need to identify what type of work you are suited to (physical labouring, teaching, nursing, environmental etc) and research specialist groups who use volunteers. Hot spots where you could be in considerable danger as a woman or an American need checking out. In the UK we can do this through the government sites on the net. Probably the same for the US.

P
10/06/2005 07:21:07 PM · #9
You could also see if there a local Roots & Shoots - //www.rootsandshoots.org/ - organization near you and go from there if your interest is in helping children. There are a few in Africa and many other countries around the world. And it is something you can continue to be involved with before and after while in the US/Canada too.

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 19:22:29.
10/06/2005 07:23:52 PM · #10
Originally posted by Riponlady:

Acquaintances of ours work out in Africa (Ghana I think) helping to build schools etc. I'll try and find out more for you.

Africa is a huge continent with a huge variety of problems, from the North African countries of Morocco and Algiers, Egypt and Sudan down to South Afica and the hundreds of countries in between. I think you need to identify what type of work you are suited to (physical labouring, teaching, nursing, environmental etc) and research specialist groups who use volunteers. Hot spots where you could be in considerable danger as a woman or an American need checking out. In the UK we can do this through the government sites on the net. Probably the same for the US.

P


I think i'm pretty diverse in my abilities to contribute. I'd love to work with kids (schools or orphanages), people with aids, any building projects.. (i know how to swing a hammer and dig with the best of em) Anything to do with wildlife.. My education is in Social work.. I also have 5 years volunteer work with wildlife native to Alberta here in Canada :) Thank you for trying to find out more from your acquaintance :)

Moodville:... that LINK is amazing .. thank you so much, I love that the work could continue after as well :)

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 19:26:13.
10/06/2005 07:31:12 PM · #11
I lived in a mud hut in a remote village in West Africa for 2 years. I was in the Peace Corps, and I taught math and English at a local school. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
10/06/2005 08:14:38 PM · #12
My cousin's hubby is from Zimbabwe and they toured Africa together a few years ago. It's a beautiful place (according to them)..but his entire family is white and have been forced out of Africa. Yup, there's lots of great opportunity for volunteering but it's also a very scary, politically unstable continent in general. South Africa's government recently attempted to abolish poverty by conducting mass burnings and killings of poor neighborhoods..under the cover of uncovering drug rings.

But anything worth while is bound to be hard. I'm not saying you shouldn't go, I'm just saying there's more to it than just physical labor.
10/06/2005 08:49:37 PM · #13
I suspect that after "The Constant Gardener" there will be a surge in volunteerism in Africa. Not exactly about that issue but gives the sense of how much help that continenet needs.

If you have not seen it then do.

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 20:49:51.
10/06/2005 09:06:17 PM · #14
My father is from Sierra Leone and got back from a 3 month trip there this past February so I will ask him if he knows of any resources.

For the record it is apparently MUCH MUCH better than it was before.. easy when you don't have rebels hacking your relatives to pieces.

Yes, my grandfather and other family members on my dad's side were brutalized in the "war" so please don't take that statement as me making light of the situation. Its actually my disgust/cynicism over the fact the government isn't going to capture/prosecute known rebels seeping through.

But anyway..

My mom was a teacher in Sierra Leone back in her twenties through the Peace Corps (that's where she met my dad, aww..). So you might want to check that out? I'll ask her if she has any ideas too.

I think any and all help would be much appreciated. Kudos to you for even thinking about it.

I think I'll go post something lighthearted now so I don't get depressed.
10/06/2005 09:16:25 PM · #15
I have actually been considering volunteering somewhere next summer, myself. (a slim, but hopeful possibility)

Here are some volunteer program sites that I have been researching:

-i to i
-volunteer adventures
-Earth Watch
-and Google
has a huge amount of links.

Good luck with your search. Africa sounds absolutely amazing. I hope you get the chance to go.

Message edited by author 2005-10-06 21:20:13.
10/07/2005 02:06:55 AM · #16
Goldberry... I'm not discounting the violence and risk that is there either (i've researched it quite a bit actually) ..and I appreciate the warning.. but I too agree anything worth doing generally pushes the limits and mine are in need of some pushing :)

jbsmithana: I havent seen, "The Constant Gardener" I will be sure to check it out though.. thank you :)

LucidLotus: I appreciate you asking your mom and dad for their input. I didn't take your statement lightly even for a moment. I know of the history and violence that continues to exist. My heart goes out to you and your family for what was endured. (((hugs)))

liebe: YAY.. maybe between the two of us we can figure something out ;) I'll compile a list of places and agencies i've checked out as well and forward them on to you when i'm done my research .. :) appreciate the list you provided here as well.. thank you :) :)

Message edited by author 2005-10-07 02:07:59.
10/07/2005 02:28:10 AM · #17
Originally posted by GoldBerry:

... very scary, politically unstable continent in general. South Africa's government recently attempted to abolish poverty by conducting mass burnings and killings of poor neighborhoods..under the cover of uncovering drug rings.

...


Huh? Huh?? Huh??? Huh????

Where does this come from? First I have heard of this!!!

Zimbabwe started a process of demolishing shacks and moving people out of the suburbs.

Cheers
Tony

10/07/2005 04:28:16 AM · #18
Originally posted by GoldBerry:

My cousin's hubby is from Zimbabwe and they toured Africa together a few years ago. It's a beautiful place (according to them)..but his entire family is white and have been forced out of Africa. Yup, there's lots of great opportunity for volunteering but it's also a very scary, politically unstable continent in general. South Africa's government recently attempted to abolish poverty by conducting mass burnings and killings of poor neighborhoods..under the cover of uncovering drug rings.

But anything worth while is bound to be hard. I'm not saying you shouldn't go, I'm just saying there's more to it than just physical labor.


Goldberry sorry but your reference is so wrong it is giving me one big smile. I suppose non-personal experiences may be a good excuse for saying things that are truely as false as a 7 cent piece.

Shecoya, I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine.... maybe you can help them building nests for the rare penguins of Dyer Island... I am checking with him from here and will PM you. maybe you should talk to the 1000's of germans and other europeans that floods the republic to buy property... ;-)
10/07/2005 04:48:04 AM · #19
Hi there.

I live in SA too. I drive through poor n'hoods daily and the looked fine this morning :0)

Africa is big and she can be very dangerous. Have no illusions about the dangers.

That said, Africa is also a very beautifull place. Might I suggest Mozambique. It has many remote parts, is close to civilisation (RSA) and after many years of war, it can offer some great photo-ops and use all the rebuilding it can get.

Good Luck!
10/07/2005 05:51:23 AM · #20
Hi Shecova

Firstly, please know that my comments are NOT intended to rain on your parade but to provide some additional food for thought and maybe give you a starting point to think about what kind of volunteering you might do that will be a genuine help to the chosen local community.

I have not volunteered in Africa but have read a lot about it and put in a great deal of time asking about it too.

One of the recurrent questions that comes up again and again is this one: Who are you doing this for? Is it genuinely to provide support to a particular community or region that really needs it or is it to provide yourself with a fun, enriching (and even resume building) experience that allows you to also feel good about yourself? For many people it's the latter, though note that I don't think that's an invalid or "wrong" answer.

The reason I ask is that much of the reading I've done points out that many of the volunteer schemes available tend to be more about providing an experience for the volunteer than about providing support of the kind most needed in the community in question. Many of the schemes I have seen tend to offer accommodation and meals in exchange for the volunteer working for a week, two weeks, a month, two months... Firstly, unless you have specific skills that are in short supply locally don't forget that there are many unemployed locals most of whom would be more than delighted to get accommodation and meals for themselves and most of whome would be just as capable as a non-skilled foreigner of doing that work.

There are stories of locals who have managed to scrimp and save for an education but as qualified teachers cannot find paid positions in local schools. Why? Because those schools can operate even more inexpensively on free teaching provided by young and often unqualified overseas volunteers. The schools don't even pay accommodation and board as that is covered by the volunteer's contributions.

Also, most of the passages I have read by experts point out that the upheaval and learning curve and support required for each short-term volunteer overrides the benefits and that long-term volunteers are much more useful. If you can spare 6 months to 2 years there are many organisations that can put you to use much more effectively than if you can only give 1 or 2 weeks.

I have seen many honest messages from experts in the field who say that if people are genuinely interested in helping rather than in getting a memorable experience for themselves the best way of supporting is to donate their money which can be used to train and pay a local workforce, thereby increasing local skills long term.

On the other hand if you have a skill that is in short supply (medical, experienced and qualified teaching, sciences, engineering, languages) your help will be much more useful and more likely to genuinely be required. Many volunteer organisations will have requirements for specific skillsets, especially where these can be used to transfer knowledge to the local workforce.

That said, despite all that I have read, I am sure that it is still possible, if you really do your research, to find volunteer organisations that can find positions for you that really WILL help the local communities - so don't give up if this is really what you want to do. Instead of US/ UK run organisations that charge hefty fees to place you see if you can find any locally run organisations that are more about genuine aid that about making money through well intentioned but possibly naive youngsters.

Another option might be to look into volunteering for a conservation organisation - helping in a particular sanctuary or project. Again any special skills that you can offer over and above enthusiasm and hard work would be good. That said, these organisations often cannot pay anything at all so they would not be able to pay locals either - if you can fund your own accommodation and board costs (so they are not out of pocket) you may well find a welcome.

If, on consideration, volunteering is not for you, you can still contribute hugely to the local communities that you visit. Look for tourism options that ensure that your dollar goes to the locals rather than foreign-owned businesses. There are more and more community owned and managed safari and holiday options now than there were 10 years ago.

When I last looked into volunteering I realised I didn't have any skills that were particularly in demand and I also wasn't sure about my motives. I decided to visit as a tourist but tried to include some destinations that were community driven - for example one of the safari camps we stayed at is a joint project between a large tour operator and the local community - the camp was built by the tour operator, with local input and for the first x years of operation the camp is run jointly, with a skills transfer going on. The tour operator can take a share of the profits for this set time period, to offset their own investment but the camp will eventually be wholly run and owned by the local community.

I do hope you won't take my post the wrong way - I am NOT saying you should not volunteer - I'm more saying that the issues are more complex than most of us realise on first look and that a more detailed investigation and rigorous decision process are needed.

GOOD LUCK!
10/07/2005 06:32:01 AM · #21
Shevoca,

Please contact Wilfred Chivall of whalewatchsa.com and specificaly tell him about your desire to be involved in voluntary work. Please mention that Peet Venter from Korea has directly refered you to him. Wilfred is one of the great conservationists and operates in the most fabulous coastal town of Gansbaai(Goosebay) in the Western Cape near Cape Town. He, at this moment is housing and utilizing another foreigner, Pepe from Mexico, teaching him about the Southern Right Whales, the great white sharks and being involved in the conservation of the jack-ass penguin nesting projects.

Once you have seen African civilisation for what it really is you will forever be in love with her. Once you have seen and touched a whale singing to you, you will never be the same. And once you have met this dear friend of mine you will know more about life and conservation than most people you know. Please keep me posted!
Peter
10/07/2005 08:02:42 AM · #22
Originally posted by Kavey:

Firstly, please know that my comments are NOT intended to rain on your parade but to provide some additional food for thought and maybe give you a starting point to think about what kind of volunteering you might do that will be a genuine help to the chosen local community.


Hi Shevoca! I was a Peace Corps volunteer for 2 years in Sierra Leone (O kushero, LucidLotus! I was in Bumbuna - what part of the country is your father from?), and my first reaction to your post was similar to Kavey's. Af first, I was thought "a month or two? sounds like a tourist ..." Kavey, you've obviously done a lot of research and soul-searching, but I thought I'd present another side as well.

There are many volunteers around the world (including in Canada and the US) where the motivation on the part of the volunteer is mixed. Some self-interest is generally involved - that's human nature - and yet it usually doesn't diminish the value of the work that they do. From what I've seen in volunteerism in several places, what seems to matter most is

a) a genuine desire to help - can be mixed with self-interest, but you have to be willing to put your interests second,

b) a willingness to learn, to listen and to admit that your own point of view isn't always right (e.g., if you walk into someone else's country, chances are pretty good that everyone living there knows a heck of a lot more about life there than you do. Admitting this up front saves everyone a lot of grief and makes you more effective.)

c) an ability to stay true to yourself while still bending over backward to understand others.

That being said, I think your desire to help is commendable, and if done with care can also be effective. As several posters here have noted, there is a real need for help in many places in Africa, and I'm sure that your assistance could be of genuine use. One of the greatest benefits of volunteers going to countries other than their own is that the volunteer learns to love another area of the world, and inevitably passes on that love and knowledge to others. That's not a nominal thing; I think that learning more about someone else's culture can only be for the good!

(Kavey, I certainly agree that some volunteers in poorly placed positions can do more harm than good, but I hope that's the exception and not the rule.)

Good luck!

10/07/2005 09:25:00 AM · #23
Bebe

I absolutely agree that it is human nature for there to be a degree of self-interest even in things that are mainly altruistic. As I said, I don't think that's invalid or wrong, but I do think people need to examine and be honest with themselves about their reasons and motivations.

Unfortunately, I do think that, whilst not THAT many volunteer roles actively do harm there are still a great deal that do, without the volunteers or organisers really being aware of it - in areas such as taking possible jobs away from locals and also in terms of the loss of tourism revenue from that same individual had they come as a tourist. The biggest thing I hear again and again is that, because the volunteer organisations/ individual volunteers pay for the costs of placement, accommodation and board, local individuals and businesses who are able and willing to do the work are unable to compete.

Of course there are still many, many cases where the project itself cannot afford to pay anyone anything at all and would simply not get done without the help of volunteers. The trick is to make sure one finds this kind of project to work on.

Another issue I have read about is volunteers being assigned to a project such as building a new school or community hall but, through no fault of the volunteers, the project is actually not suitable to the community's needs, is not wanted, or for some reason cannot be used and is left unused. This is down to the lack of research or local knowledge on the part of the organising body.

Again, a potential volunteer can reduce their chances of working on this kind of project by doing a lot of research on the organisations they are considering volunteering through and ensuring that the chosen organisation has a really good track record.

So I don't think problems with volunteers not being as helpful as they would hope is quite rare enough to be the exception but I'm also hopeful that the proportion that do genuinely do good is still high.

I think, forewarned is forearmed and now that Shevoca is aware of these kind of issues I am sure she can find a position that avoid the common pitfalls, genuinely helps her chosen project and also provides her with a personal sense of achievement and wonderful experience.


10/07/2005 10:17:28 AM · #24
Well, I only saw a bit of West Africa while I was volunteering there (as Peace Corps as well for two years in HIV education) so I can only talk about those few countries.

But it WAS such an amazing experience, especially staying there for so long, you really get the feel of the place, the warmth of the people, the beauty of it all, and also how best to empower counterparts and work on sustainable projects... I saw too much evidence of 'help' agencies of all kinds continuing the cycle of dependence. And trust me, Peace Corps is not perfect either!

I would recommend spending more time there :) You won't regret it!

I lived in Guinee, visited Mali, Cote D'ivoire, and Ghana (if you are interested in any of these, you can PM me...)
10/07/2005 11:28:35 AM · #25
Kavey and Bebe

Wow... that is alot to wake up to ~smiles~ but I must say ..its exactly what I was hoping to hear. I dont want to be the tourist that perpetuates the cycle.

In my research I've found many organizations that essentially sell a working vacation and that doesnt interest me in the least.. thus my request here for anyone who knows the inside scoop or knows people who are there that genuinely could use a set of hands.

I'm not a rich person so I dont have alot to contribute financially but I have access to cheap flights and the world is alot easier for me to navigate than the average bear... given that benefit I figured one of the best things I could do with it is give in person what I wish I could monetarily. Of course and I'd never deny, there is the added benefit of being in those places and the things I get to take out of the experience..(being touched by the things I witness and the people who's lives I get to share for a moment)

I have no doubt once I'm there that I'll end up doing everything in my power to get back for a more substantial time frame.. (I know myself too well) But initially, I have to be honest I cant afford to walk away from my life for the six months or a year to some project that I have no experience with.. I'd rather get over there for a couple of months (do what I can, find what I believe in and where I fit)then go back and contribute substantially.

If you knew me you'd know the beaten path has never been for me. I want to know whats around the corner.. over that hill or under that rock. I want to know who people are what they believe in and what makes them the person they are.. (literally and figuratively speaking of course) But I have no interest in pushing my culture spirituality morals values or ethics on anyone. I'm all about accepting people where they are at, and being open to learning from one another. I've worked within other cultures that have been raped of their sense of identity. Personally and professionally i've advocated and lived the idea of empowerment.

I appreciate the responses here more than you can imagine. I dont feel like my parade has been rained on or that the responses were meant to belittle or deter my desire to help. Many of the questions posed gave me pause and made me consider my motivations. Alot of it I've thought about already.. some things I'm revisiting and others I had not considered before so I thank you for taking the time to write back and for the passion behind your words.

Peter: I'll fire off an email today... thank you so much :) I will absolutely keep you posted.

Blackdot: i'll start my research on Mozambique :) thanks

Armelle, in the not so distant future i'll likely be emailing you to find out about your experiences in the places you mentioned.. thank you :)

Hope the day is filled with magical moments for you all and that you are able to see them when they are before you :)
~twirls~

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