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  1. #1
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    Default African aid/charity advice

    I have no idea of anyone can help but I'm not sure where to start looking. Me and DH have often talked about wanting to spend some time doing humanitarian work where we would be able to make a positive contribution to the lives of other people. At first we thought about taking a career break for a couple of years but once you have kids you start to see the limitations to visiting third world countries and the risks etc involved. So I think realistically we won't be able to do that until the children are much older so in the meantime we are thinking of trying to find a charity where we could go for a few weeks and we would have our family look after the kids whilst we are away.
    The problem is I have no idea how to go about finding such a project. If you google you come up with lots of gap year type volunteer programmes but that's not really what we are looking for. My (probably idealistic) idea is to find a smaller local charity that would just be grateful for an extra pair of hands for a few weeks and would maybe give us the opportunity to be more directly involved (my concern with the large programmes in place is that you pay huge sums of money to go and then have very little contact with the people who need help). I would love to work with children such as an orphanage or hospital and whilst I know it would be heartbreaking, the thought of just being able to give a baby who has nobody a cuddle and a small amount of love and affection would be amazing.
    My DH work contract runs out at the end of this year and our plan is to return home to Europe. It would be an ideal time to do a small project before we start working again. I'm wondering if anyone has any first hand experience with volunteer work or knows the best avenues to find information, eg asking local church etc. I know people will have opinions on the practicality and idealistic views of such a project but I'm really just after some positive feedback and help.

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    Option 1- contact red cross to ask them for volunteer programs

    Contact a country's embassy here in Australia and ask them.

    Find an African community group here in Australia and enquire thru them.

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    Rotary might be a good group to ask too.

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    nh2489  (26-02-2016)

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    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I hadn't thought of those organisation so I'll start looking into it.

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    Take a look here: http://www.australianvolunteers.com/

    What a great thing to do. Good luck!

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    My advice - totally take it or leave it - would be to take a holiday to one of the many amazing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and leave it at that.
    Taking a holiday to these countries injects many thousands of dollars into the community and employs people which is a tangible benefit.
    I know you wanted positive stories but there are many criticisms of 'voluntourism' no matter how well intentioned. Many aid agencies do not accept voluntourists for good reason. Others accept them with a hefty fee as a way of fundraising. Others are super shonky and are doing more harm than good. There are serious concerns about voluntourism in south east Asia less so in Africa as its less common (less accessible due to cost, logistics, distance). Most charitable organizations raise funds to employ people on the ground in the country itself so don't want foreign people displacing local employment. They also want skilled and experienced people to do specific jobs (not holding babies). It can be very burdensome having people unfamiliar with a local culture, language and customs 'getting in the way' and using poverty to feel good about themselves doing something to 'help', I know how harsh that sounds. It can be considered quite paternalistic too and yes short term stints don't do much good in improving complex situations. There is a lot of good reading around the conundrum of voluntourism.
    Most charities in short would rather you donate money to help them get on with doing their work. Otherwise my advice would be to go on a holiday and inject much needed money into the community and economy that way through local tours, services, guides. If you'd like some advice on places to go please PM me. I've spent time in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Rwanda.
    I have a vested interest in this topic sorry if my response is a bit negative, DH is African he's been here almost 10 years now but ultimately we would love to return with DD. I'm currently doing a masters in international public health and development to support this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gingermillie View Post
    My advice - totally take it or leave it - would be to take a holiday to one of the many amazing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and leave it at that.
    Taking a holiday to these countries injects many thousands of dollars into the community and employs people which is a tangible benefit.
    I know you wanted positive stories but there are many criticisms of 'voluntourism' no matter how well intentioned. Many aid agencies do not accept voluntourists for good reason. Others accept them with a hefty fee as a way of fundraising. Others are super shonky and are doing more harm than good. There are serious concerns about voluntourism in south east Asia less so in Africa as its less common (less accessible due to cost, logistics, distance). Most charitable organizations raise funds to employ people on the ground in the country itself so don't want foreign people displacing local employment. They also want skilled and experienced people to do specific jobs (not holding babies). It can be very burdensome having people unfamiliar with a local culture, language and customs 'getting in the way' and using poverty to feel good about themselves doing something to 'help', I know how harsh that sounds. It can be considered quite paternalistic too and yes short term stints don't do much good in improving complex situations. There is a lot of good reading around the conundrum of voluntourism.
    Most charities in short would rather you donate money to help them get on with doing their work. Otherwise my advice would be to go on a holiday and inject much needed money into the community and economy that way through local tours, services, guides. If you'd like some advice on places to go please PM me. I've spent time in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Rwanda.
    I have a vested interest in this topic sorry if my response is a bit negative, DH is African he's been here almost 10 years now but ultimately we would love to return with DD. I'm currently doing a masters in international public health and development to support this.
    Thanks for your honest and informed advice. What I didn't want was people just giving advice based on no personal experience just their own opinion. I find that most things that you would initially think are good things to do are plagued with negativity and you realise that your actions could do more harm than good. (For example before we started IVF we looked into the possibility of intercountry adoption and boy that was eye opening!)
    I just find it so frustrating that there are so many situations that rely on volunteers and although we could find work in our profession that would indirectly help people in the community (we are vets), we both felt that it would be more rewarding to help people rather than animals. I also see what you mean about volunteers standing around not helping. After I finished uni I went to India with a friend to help in an animal charity and we soon realised all we were doing was standing around watching operations, not being allowed to take part as they felt we were inexperienced and when we suggested our skills could be used elsewhere in the shelter they were unable to find us anything to do. We ended up leaving a week into a planned month stay. So that's the main reason I didn't want to go through a large organisation where the charities actually don't need your help but also realise that we don't have the skills to help out in a meaningful way either. I know it's idealistic and reading your reply makes me appreciate that but I just feel that I need to do something in my life that makes a real difference to people. Maybe we just need to put things on hold and go back to our original idea of doing a longer term project and spending the time researching things thoroughly.

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    Hi OP, I really recommend a book called The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer. It's a very interesting book about altruism, and somewhat reflects what a PP has said that the best thing you can do is to make a decent amount of money and then put your money out there to do good in the world. I don't 100% agree with everything it advocates but it is a very interesting book.

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    Not Africa, but I know people volunteering in Sth America. Particularly in orphanages (i.e small organisations, no money exchanged), but also other areas. But from what I know, it's not so much a project, it's more a once/twice a week commitment. I guess the problem with only being there a month or so would be that they'd need to fill the gap after you go, so maybe they look for people staying longer?
    They are also in constant need of supplies, nappies, formula, sometimes teddies etc. Here the orphanages are usually run by the nuns.
    Not sure if this helps, but good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by gingermillie View Post
    My advice - totally take it or leave it - would be to take a holiday to one of the many amazing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and leave it at that.
    Taking a holiday to these countries injects many thousands of dollars into the community and employs people which is a tangible benefit.
    I know you wanted positive stories but there are many criticisms of 'voluntourism' no matter how well intentioned. Many aid agencies do not accept voluntourists for good reason. Others accept them with a hefty fee as a way of fundraising. Others are super shonky and are doing more harm than good. There are serious concerns about voluntourism in south east Asia less so in Africa as its less common (less accessible due to cost, logistics, distance). Most charitable organizations raise funds to employ people on the ground in the country itself so don't want foreign people displacing local employment. They also want skilled and experienced people to do specific jobs (not holding babies). It can be very burdensome having people unfamiliar with a local culture, language and customs 'getting in the way' and using poverty to feel good about themselves doing something to 'help', I know how harsh that sounds. It can be considered quite paternalistic too and yes short term stints don't do much good in improving complex situations. There is a lot of good reading around the conundrum of voluntourism.
    Most charities in short would rather you donate money to help them get on with doing their work. Otherwise my advice would be to go on a holiday and inject much needed money into the community and economy that way through local tours, services, guides. If you'd like some advice on places to go please PM me. I've spent time in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa and Rwanda.
    I have a vested interest in this topic sorry if my response is a bit negative, DH is African he's been here almost 10 years now but ultimately we would love to return with DD. I'm currently doing a masters in international public health and development to support this.
    I was going to write something similar but @gingermille beat me to it! And she put it much more eloquently than I could have.


 

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