Monday, November 10, 2008

Wise words from the volunteers

After brilliant results from the latest volunteers in Uhundha village, we've been discussing that necessary evil; Money.
I'd like to share some comments that we all need to remember, wise words indeed from Soraya & James, Summer 2007 volunteers. They kindly shared some photos with us too.

I strongly believe in transparency and honesty. AVIF has never been about money, our only wish is to assist in sustainable development. Of course there are costs involved in volunteering in Kenya, which is exactly why we don't charge fees on top, but since it is always a personal choice of the volunteer to travel over, AVIF only serves to make it a successful, inspiring experience for all concerned. Everybody wins.

Soraya explains ".....we paid 1500ksh [US$20] a week for fish or meat to be delivered twice a week and for some salad and tomatoes. I know this is a lot more than what it costs and seems extortionate compared to local prices....but we offered extra because of the small costs that most people don't realise these people incurred just to get food to us...such as petrol/motorbike fare to get to Usenge, and also the fact that if we ever received milk or tomatoes from someone's shamba [agricultural small holding], it was at the expense of them going without as much produce to sustain themselves...and for that reason we were happy to pay extra, and didn't feel like there was anything wrong with the people involved in helping us get local produce benefiting a little financially."

"We were extremely clear after our first meeting that we were not there to give money and everyone seemed to respect that so money never really became an issue". If each volunteer simply hands over money, "the danger is that this lovely community who expected nothing from James and I (and who were truly excited about doing things to help themselves by the time we left) will soon get used to being overpaid/receiving gifts and this would be very negative in the long term so I would be keen to work with you to make sure this doesn't happen - not only because I agree volunteers should not be taken advantage of...but most importantly because the whole point of sending volunteers should be about finding ways to improve self-sufficiency."

"....I think the key is reinforcing that the placement is unpaid, and that volunteers will discuss costs on arrival but not to go beyond that...otherwise it becomes too business like and it shouldn't be about reality, you cannot put a price on how much it costs to keep a volunteer so we did as much for ourselves as possible and gave very discreetly for anything that was provided for us."

I hope volunteers will take this advice.
Many thanks, Soraya

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