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Service Abroad - Advice from Previous Volunteers

Page history last edited by Kelly Behrend 11 years, 6 months ago

Serving Abroad: Tools & Tips 

Advice from Previous Volunteers


 

Explaining the Bonner Program

Some cultures have yet to fully grasp concepts like service learning, civic engagement, and community service. So, when explaining the Bonner Program (specifically the details like the CLA and logging hours), it may seem overwhelming and confusing to potential site supervisors. It is essential that you read and use the Service Partner Guide (download here: Service Partner Guide.pdf). By using this guide, staff at your potential service site have the opportunity to read what the Bonner Program is and how your service and their site fits together under the Bonner mission. Feel free to fax or e-mail the companion guide to your service site beforehand, or travel with a few copies so that when you begin interviewing for volunteer positions at various sites, you have multiple copies to hand out.

 

Cultural Sensitivity

Be aware of how you may be presenting yourself to a potential service site. Don’t enter into it with a “save-the-world” mentality. Often times, these sites are better equipped to diagnose the issues in their community because of cultural reasons, and it may be off-putting if you begin trying to make changes. Wait for the opportunity to engage with them in service, don’t be too forward in starting your own project or initiative that may be potentially jarring to internal staff and volunteers. If you do choose to do something new or different within the organization, be sure to ask a trusted coworker or friend familiar with the culture.

 

Hours & Pay

Some organizations may not be used to having consistent volunteers, if any. Therefore, your help may be seen as a potential threat to someone’s job. If you’re working “for free” for 10 hours per week, it may be threatening to some other staff members who are paid part-time and may not understand your role. Moreover, some may question your motives when serving when they hear that you are getting a scholarship or getting “paid” to do so--the idea of a community service scholarship is still foreign to many. These issues may be especially complex if you are working in a community or for an organization that does not speak English. If this is the case, take great care in explaining your motives and see if there is a translator available.

 

Don't Panic!

These are all issues you may not even run into, but it is better to be prepared than not at all. Just be sure to engage in constant communication with your Bonner staff and feel free to contact any of the Bonners featured in this handbook if you have a problem or need advice. Read their stories and you’ll see why volunteering abroad is more than worth it--it is an enlightening, enriching, and often life-changing experience. 

 

 


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