How do we make the volunteering arm of our programme responsible?
There are many measures of what makes a volunteering programme responsible, some of them better documented than others, but we are continuously striving to be as responsible as possible, not just in our approach to working with international volunteers, but in our approach to everything we do. This is driven by an underlying belief to simply do the right thing.
The volunteer project fits within our strategic framework at Phase 3. Phase 1 is to carry out a needs assessment and any community that does not have the need for a LBA project will not be selected to take part in the programme, whether international volunteers are involved or not. We do not look for placements based on the market demand such as the needs and desires of volunteers.
No project is forced onto a community. Every school or village must write to LBA expressing their interest and willingness to take part in an LBA project. Further to that, every school or community also has to contribute resources to a project. These are not expensive resources that could make a community miss an opportunity but resources that with a little bit of time and effort can be gathered locally.
All volunteers undergo a selection process, conducted by our partners. This does require an enormous amount of trust in our partners but our partners have earned this respect by selecting excellent volunteers year in year out. All volunteers must undergo a Criminal Records Check before their placement.
Our volunteers undergo an intensive 8 day training before they begin work on the projects. This covers numerous aspects involved in a volunteer placement and ensures they are thoroughly prepared and equipped to carry out their placement in an informed, culturally sensitive and respectful manner.
Code of Conduct:
All volunteers sign a code of conduct before beginning placement with LBA. Failure to sign or adhere to the code of conduct means volunteers are removed from placement.
LBA has a Child Protection policy in place to protect the vulnerable people who we work with in communities. This policy, which all staff and volunteers are trained in and agreed to abide by, is a new policy and shows our commitment to serving our communities better and delivering on a high standard programme.
Budgets & Detailed Placement Plans:
We provide a transparent 56 line budget for volunteer projects. There are no hidden costs, general categories or donations to "development funds". As our partners recruit volunteers, we have no marketing budget and rely on social media and word of mouth for advertising. Each year a 10+ page proposal is prepared for all volunteers, accessible even before volunteers sign up to take part in the project, providing a detailed account of all aspects of their placement.
We work hand in hand with the local authorities, ensuring our work complements their goals and objectives and that the authorities are aware of and approve our workplans. We also utilise their knowledge and experience in the district for strengthening our own projects.
Working with Locals in Partnership:
Volunteers do not take jobs away from locals. Everyone works as a volunteer and due to the lengthy sensitisation and preparation process of communities, there is often a large turn out of local people to volunteer alongside the international volunteers on the projects. With stove training, the volunteers do not build the stoves themselves, they train others to build the stoves. There is always a strong partnering element to every project.
All LBA projects have clear objectives which fit into our organisational strategy. Action Sitaru has its own log frame within this strategy and we evaluate the project against the goals and objectives on a regular basis.
LBA supports the communities to set up and elect a local committee which LBA then trains to maintain and manage the relevant project. Getting community members involved from the beginning helps increase the interest, ownership and sustainability of the projects.
LBA currently works with over 200 local committees who are visited at least 3 times a year to ensure the project is still maintained and in working order. LBA supports the committees to write and follow action plans to increase the long lasting impact of the project.
LBA insists that international volunteers show a high level of respect during their time on project. This is emphasised even before volunteers are selected and continued throughout training to look at the underlying impact of this respect. It includes being culturally aware and sensitive, and working through the appropriate channels within a community.
Reports on Outcomes and Impact:
In revisiting our projects, we are able to constantly monitor the outcomes of the project and feed into the larger picture of the impact being made. This is continuously fed back to the district, committees, donors and past volunteers to keep them informed of the bigger picture.
We never rest on what we have already built and put in place. We are constantly listening, researching, questioning, sharing and exploring how we can make our programme, whether international volunteers are involved or not, more responsible for everyone involved.