Do Africans Volunteer?

Submitted by Helen Gough on February 2, 2007 - 5:15pm.

This may seem like a strange question, but does anyone have experience of setting up, or working for a volunteer bureau / centre in sub-saharan Africa?
I'm thinking of the type of bureau you get in the UK where organisations who need volunteers register their opportunities with you, and people looking to do voluntary work come to match up with a suitable placement.
The reason these bureaux work so well in the UK is that it allows community groups / charities to provide fantastic sevices or run projects that just couldn't survive wihtout the time, talent and skils of volunteers. The volunteers themselves get a great sense of achievement, meet new people and learn new skills.
Am I just being crazy thinking this could work? Any thoughts (positive, practical or otherwise) would be hugely appreciated.

Submitted by jcravens42 on February 2, 2007 - 9:13pm.

>>does anyone have experience of setting up, or working for a volunteer bureau / centre in sub-saharan Africa?

YES, Africans volunteer, and there are already some volunteer centers in sub-Sahara Africa.

Before you start with the matching service, however, start with the NGOs that might involve volunteers. What organizations already involve volunteers, and are they involving them successfully? If you match hundreds or thousands of people with organizations that don't really know how to involve and support volunteers, you will be turning people OFF to volunteering rather than getting them excited about such.

> The reason these bureaux work so well in the UK is that it allows community groups / charities to provide fantastic sevices or run projects that just couldn't survive wihtout the time, talent and skils of volunteers.

Actually, these centers work so well in the UK because they make sure organizations are ready to involve volunteers, have well-defined tasks for them, are ready to put them into these tasks immediately, etc., BEFORE any recruitment takes place.

It's also important not to fall into the "old paradigm" reasons for volunteering -- that they are free labor and organizations don't have the money to pay for staff. Volunteers have value far beyond money saved -- if an organization had all the money in the world to involve all the paid staff it needed for any and ever staff, wouldn't it still involve volunteers, in order to demonstrate community investment in its work, to tap into people who might speak more freely about what it's doing than people depending on the work for their livelihood, and so on?

The United Nations Volunteers has a portal to volunteerism that could help connect you to existing volunteer centers in Africa:
http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org

IAVE used to have a place on its web site listing volunteer centers in developing countries, but I can't download the web site (I just love when web designers forget that not everyone has the latest and greatest computers and software):
http://www.iave.org

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Jayne Cravens
www.coyotecommunications.com/development/

Submitted by Helen Gough on February 4, 2007 - 8:18pm.

Thanks for the comments, some great links to explore. I guess I should have said in my 1st posting that I work for a volunteer bureau in the UK. I spend half my time working with potential volunteers and the other half with organisations that involve volutneers - looking at recruitment, retention and general best practice. I completely agree with your points about ensuring organisations are ready to take on volunteers and are in a position to fully support them. Thanks again, lots to think about.

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