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 Another Kind of Volunteer

Interview with Gert Tjoelker who is a teacher at DRH Lindersvold, one of the learning centres where Take 10 Volunteers are preparing for their volunteer experience. Gert shares some of his observations and reflections on training “another kind of volunteers” and how volunteering should be about solidarity, not charity,

· Lindersvold · 23 May 2019 ·

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

What do you mean by “another kind of volunteers”?

Well, I think our programme has a lot of qualities that are lacking in projects that are more like “voluntourism” adventures. I think it is important that if you really want to contribute to making our planet a better place, you need to invest more than a few weeks in an exotic place. It takes much more effort and enthusiasm than that.

 

Being humble

So, when I hear the word “volunteer” I always want to add that volunteering needs to be done in a meaningful way – it has to make sense. It has to be a two-way process, for example. In my mind, a good volunteer will be humble and open to meet people on equal terms. As a volunteer, you need to listen to the people you are working with.  And you need to make a real effort to understand the needs of that community so you can act together.

 

What sets this programme apart from other volunteer programmes?

I would say the preparation and the projects. I think the preparation is very important so that the volunteers have a basic understanding of what is expected of them. The projects are Humana People to People projects, meaning well-established local organisations running high quality community-led long-term projects. As such, these projects run without the volunteers, the volunteers are there to add to these projects. They contribute with their specific skills, knowledge, understanding, with their enthusiasm and their solidarity.

 

How long is the preparation period?

Three months. I would say three very busy, intensive months! From the moment, you arrive until the day you go to the airport to catch a flight to your project destination, you will not be bored. Time flies and we have so much fun as well.

 

So, how do you train “another kind of volunteers”?

As a volunteer, you are going to do a meaningful task in another country, on another continent with a totally different culture and a totally different standard of living. To be able to do this, you need to be properly prepared. You cannot just arrive in a country you have never visited before and contribute in a sensible way. You need to know something about the colonial history of that country and you need to understand something about how this influences the way things work there today.

Being part of the puzzle

Also, you need to know about Humana People to People and you need to understand how the projects are run and why they are run in this or that way. You need to get to understand how they make a difference in that country and how you can be a part of that puzzle.

Another important topic is the climate crisis and how the people are affected in the areas our volunteers go to. They didn’t contribute a lot to global warming but are suffering greatly from it. And they will continue to do so.

So – getting knowledge about big topics like these is important. Therefore, a thorough preparation period is important.

Another aspect is that the volunteers work together as a group.

 

So, the volunteers are preparing and volunteering as a group?

Yes, when they start the programme they start as a team of 6 – 12 people. In the team, they stick together about all the things. The studies, the investigations, the actions and the practical routines of running the school. They learn a lot from organising themselves around the daily running of the school, how to solve differences and how to involve everyone in different activities.

So instead of everyone for himself, we build community with the people at this school. This is very important because when you arrive at your project, later on, you are also expected to work together and take part in community building.

 

Will the team be together at the project as well?

No, they divide into smaller groups, so they will be a duo (2) or trio (3) placed together at a project. In this way, the volunteers can support each other in different ways

 

What kind of projects do they go to?

Right now we have the January team in Malawi and Zambia. One trio is working with the “Young Farmers’ Club” in Chibombo in Zambia. One duo works at DNS Amalika in Malawi (a teacher training college), where they support an Early Childhood Development Centre.

Another duo is working in northern Malawi at DNS Mzimba (also a teacher training college) working with the running of preschools together with the communities around that teacher training college.

Solidarity, not charity

As a volunteer you will work with a project within one of Humana People to People’s focus areas: Health, Education, Agriculture and/or Community Development, so there is a good opportunity to work with many different forms of supporting marginalised communities in their fight to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, it is important to understand about the Take 10 Volunteer programme, that what we do is not charity, but solidarity.

Gert Tjoelker is a teacher at DRH Lindersvold.

Gert Tjoelker is the main teacher of the Take 10 Volunteer programme at the learning centre DRH Lindersvold.

“I don’t believe in charity.
I believe in solidarity.
Charity is so vertical.
It goes from the top to the bottom.
Solidarity is horizontal.
It respects the other person.
I have a lot to learn from other people.”
~  Eduardo Galeano

10 months structured volunteer experience

3 months:
Preparation – training, practical skills, teamwork, setting goals

6 months:
Project work – in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique or India

1 month:
Conclusion and information activities – reflection, bringing the good message out

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

Volunteer for an inclusive future

As we strive for social justice and a more equal world, where everyone enjoys the freedoms as set out in the Charter of Human Rights, we recognise that it takes the combined efforts of a lot of people.

#EndPoverty #Together

Poverty cannot be overcome by charity. It has to be resolved by changing an unjust system from the bottom up. Solidarity action from the international community and from individuals are also needed.

Empowering Rural Women

Rural women in Africa & Asia work just as hard as their male counterparts to secure their families’ livelihoods. Women contribute with their labour and knowledge on family farms – and they are good at it.

Another Kind of Volunteer

Gert Tjoelker is a teacher at DRH Lindersvold.

Interview with Gert Tjoelker who is a teacher at DRH Lindersvold, one of the learning centres where Take 10 Volunteers are preparing for their volunteer experience. Gert shares some of his observations and reflections on training “another kind of volunteers” and how volunteering should be about solidarity, not charity,

Working together on equal terms. Solidarity not charity.

What do you mean by “another kind of volunteers”?

Well, I think our programme has a lot of qualities that are lacking in projects that are more like “voluntourism” adventures.

I think it is important that if you really want to contribute to making our planet a better place, you need to invest more than a few weeks in an exotic place. It takes much more effort and enthusiasm than that.

Learning by doing, together, is an act of solidarity, not charity.

So, when I hear the word “volunteer” I always want to add that volunteering needs to be done in a meaningful way – it has to make sense. It has to be a two-way process, for example. In my mind, a good volunteer will be humble and open to meet people on equal terms.

As a volunteer, you need to listen to the people you are working with.  And you need to make a real effort to understand the needs of that community so you can act together.

I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. ~ Eduardo Galeano

What sets this programme apart from other volunteer programmes?

The preparation and the projects. I think the preparation is very important so that the volunteers have a basic understanding of what is expected of them.

The projects are Humana People to People projects, meaning well-established local organisations running high quality community-led long-term projects.

As such, these projects run without the volunteers, the volunteers are there to add to these projects. They contribute with their specific skills, knowledge, understanding, with their enthusiasm and their solidarity.

Immersing yourself in the community where you work, volunteering based on solidarity.

How long is the preparation period?

Three months.

I would say three very busy, intensive months!

From the moment, you arrive until the day you go to the airport to catch a flight to your project destination, you will not be bored.

Time flies and we have so much fun as well. There is time set aside for doing creative things as well, like music, poetry and drama.

Doing creative things together to express solidarity politics over white saviourism.

So, how do you train “another kind of volunteers”?

As a volunteer, you are going to do a meaningful task in another country, on another continent with a totally different culture and a totally different standard of living.

To be able to do this, you need to be properly prepared. You cannot just arrive in a country you have never visited before and contribute in a sensible way.

You need to know something about the colonial history of that country and you need to understand something about how this influences the way things work there today.

Studying the underlying causes of poverty in preparation of taking action as a solidarity worker.

Also, you need to know about Humana People to People and you need to understand how the projects are run and why they are run in this or that way. You need to get to understand how they make a difference in that country and how you can be a part of that puzzle.

Another important topic is the climate crisis and how the people are affected in the areas our volunteers go to. They didn’t contribute a lot to global warming but are suffering greatly from it. And they will continue to do so.

So – getting knowledge about big topics like these is important. Therefore, a thorough preparation period is important.

Another aspect is that the volunteers work together as a group.

Six people from three continents preparing to take action in solidarity with marginalised communities.

So, the volunteers are preparing and volunteering as a group?

Yes, when they start the programme they start as a team of 6 – 12 people. In the team, they stick together about all the things.

The studies, the investigations, the actions and the practical routines of running the school.

They learn a lot from organising themselves around the daily running of the school, how to solve differences and how to involve everyone in different activities.

A structured gap year can be just what you need.

Will the team be together at the project as well?

No, they divide into smaller groups, so they will be a duo (2) or trio (3) placed together at a project. In this way, the volunteers can support each other in different ways

Volunteering in Mozambique as an act of solidarity, not charity.

Volunteer in Mozambique

As a volunteer with ADPP Moçambique, you will work together with teachers and others to improve conditions in primary schools.

So instead of everyone for himself, we build community with the people at this school. This is very important because when you arrive at your project, later on, you are also expected to work together and take part in community building.

Ubuntu. Togetherness. Solidarity not Charity.

What kind of projects do they go to?

Right now we have the January team in Malawi and Zambia. One trio is working with the “Young Farmers’ Club” in Chibombo in Zambia. One duo works at DNS Amalika in Malawi (a teacher training college), where they support an Early Childhood Development Centre.

Another duo is working in northern Malawi at DNS Mzimba (also a teacher training college) working with the running of preschools together with the communities around that teacher training college.

10 months structured volunteer experience

3 months:
Preparation – training, practical skills, teamwork, setting goals

6 months:
Project work – in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique or India

1 month:
Conclusion and information activities – reflection, bringing the good message out

As a volunteer you will work with a project within one of Humana People to People’s focus areas:

Health, Education, Agriculture and/or Community Development, so there is a good opportunity to work with many different forms of supporting marginalised communities in their fight to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, it is important to understand about the Take 10 Volunteer programme, that what we do is not charity, but solidarity.

What does it take to become a Take 10 Volunteer?

In order to enrol in the 10 month Take 10 Volunteer programme, you need to meet the following requirements:

    • You are 18 years old or older.
    • You are ready to leave your home for 10 months to volunteer in a community environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
    • You have decided not to drink alcohol or take drugs for the entirety of the program.
    • You are eager to experience a multidisciplinary and collective training programme, which includes theoretical and practical activities.
    • You are ready to immerse yourself in a multicultural and diverse community.
    • You are ready to volunteer where you are most needed.
    • You look forward to engaging with the Humana People to People projects in a spirit of cooperation, mutual learning and respect.
    • You are committed to learn about people, cultures, values and traditions, and to share your knowledge and stories with the public after your travels.