Sunday, June 21, 2015

What is ‘volunteerism’ and is it useful? - Post 4

Disclaimer: this question doesn’t have an answer.

At Masibambisane volunteer organizations come in and out. This, while providing outside support and resources for the center also creates massive instability. With organizations coming in and out constantly, the kids in the center are reminded that relationships are temporary, and that attachment can be extremely harmful. Bear in mind this is a center for orphans and vulnerable children. Kids who already have a very unstable environment at home and who are constantly reminded of the instability of their world. This should not be resounded in the place they go to get away from this turmoil.
Across the globe, in most people, volunteerism is seen as something helpful. If a group were going to hurt, why would they have traveled all this way? No person tries to do harm when signing up to volunteer, that’s against the point. Yet, the story of Masibambisane is not unique. Centers around the world are starving for funding and for resources and are willing to say ‘yes’ to anyone who wants to provide that; often at the harm of the people whom they are trying to help.
This echoes an “assets based” support framework. This assets based approach has been repeated to us as necessary and helpful in almost every training session we have had so far. Assets based support encompasses support with the foundation of the resources that the center (or program) already has. This is easier said than done though. NGOs are scraping by to serve the needs of their populations. Needs that often cannot be privatized or profitable, both structurally and morally.

So social entrepreneurship and volunteerism sit between the proverbial rock and hard place. While blind help is often harmful, welfare programs are not strong enough to support themselves due to the nature of welfare programs. All we can do is try to share information, and to remember that as well intentioned our actions are, they are often harmful in unforeseen ways.

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