Measuring the Impact of Volunteering Abroad
At Patron Nepal, our NGO (Non-Governmental Organizational) Volunteer Programs are designed towards maximizing the effectiveness of the efforts of our program volunteers and the long-term, positive impact which they will make on the overseas local community where they will serve. The invaluable experience Patron Nepal program volunteers gain is further rewarded with the knowlegde that their efforts not only contributed toward making a significant improvement in the lives of others but that the significant difference made in the lives of others will continue long after the conclusion of their stay abroad.
A volunteer experience with Patron Nepal is one that not only creates a positive change on a personal level but also instils in them the desire to continue to make a difference with a due to the profound sense of global engagement which results from having served a local community which has such desperate needs. Patron Nepal is driven to provide a highly sustainable, positive impact and this philosophy is mainained through our highly coordinated, continuing efforts with other local project participants, as well as, our global partners. Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a framework, each project has long, mid and short-term objectives which are defined by each local partner. It is by working within the framework of these parameters that we are able to ensure that Patron Nepal remains able to make a significant difference on a local community level; striving to improve the lives of the people who our program volunteers have so selflessly served, long after they have returned home.
Most people who choose to volunteer on an international basis do so because they want to know that their efforts have been fruitful in that they made a positive impact on the local community. How often do people really stop to think about what the term "impact" really means, and how is it possible for one to measure the efficiency of their efforts? After a program volunteer packs up their bags and returns home, how will they know whether or not they have actually made any difference in the community where they have served? How is one to know if program volunteering really makes a difference?
What does "making an impact" really mean?
Volunteer impact refers to a measurable change which occurs in a community as a result of service. In other words, it is the measure of the effectiveness of the individual volunteer and the organization through which they operate. Some people step into the olunteer role with a results-oriented approach where they know that a particular problem exists, and they set out to try and fix it. While others may not be quite as focused in their efforts, they may possess a general desire to improve the lives of others, as well as, looking to live for a short time in a foreign country, possibly including the opportunity to work with children. Still others may have particular skill which they wish to apply in a country where their skill would be in demand, perhaps the fields of medicine or language teaching. The ultimate impact can vary depending on the motivations of both the volunteer and the organiziation.
As international volunteers prepare to embark on their volunteer experience, they sometimes concern themselves with the intention to change the world. One thing which they should always keep in mind is that they will soon meet people who live in communities who are experiencing difficulties which did not develop overnight so it would be totally unreasonable for the volunteer to assume that they will be able to completely change the way things are with a two to four-week volunteer effort. What program volunteers will quickly learn is that there will be others who are already serving in these local communities and it is through the coordination of their combined efforts that the people of the community will receive the vital services that they need. The efforts of many volunteers; each having their own assignments and goals, are what is required to accomplish the long-term goal of serving the people, for this is where the strides towards achieving true change and the impact on the community will be made.
Clearly, the measurment of volunteer impact will be a difficult one, particularly when volunteer efforts are such that they are not eaily quantifiable. While there are academic studies and entire professional fields devoted to study this very point, sometimes the end results of such efforts are not so easily measurable.
When the Volunteer is able to think in advance about the impact that their volunteer experience will have on the local overseas community to be served, it will better enable them in retrospect to reflect upon and evaluate the full extent of their service.
What factors affect a volunteer's ability to measure their impact?
It is important to examine the variables which will affect how much impact a program volunteer's efforts will have on a community and how it can be measured. There are many ways to go about this, including making certain that you a volunteer is placed within a program that they believe best suits their needs and goals; including that of personal development, thereby ensuring that their efforts will have the greates impact in the area within they will be working.
The Length of Your Volunteer Stay
Clearly, there will be a noticeable difference between working for three months as an English Language Teacher and completing an entire curriculum, vs. spending two weeks as a teacher's assistant. While the latter may fill an important short-term need, the impact will certainly be less tangible. The longer a Patron Nepal volunteer remains in a community, the greater the opportunity they will have to personally make an impact, increasing the possibility of them to see first-hand the results of their selfless dedication.
While past experiences have shown that when people serve in a volunteer program for a short period of time, by the time that they finally become closer to the people with whom they are serving, they find that they must soon depart and are less able to see them truly benefit from the fruits of their efforts, and then the realization will set in that there is so much more work yet to be accomplished, accompanied by the wish that they could have remained longer. The good news for volunteers is that there will always be another season, or another year in which they will hopefully be able to return and continue in their efforts with the same very people whom they have come to build life-long friendships.
The Program Design
If you are an individual who believes that making a measurable change in a community is important, this should be your primary concern when selecting a service organization in which you will serve as a volunteer. It will be important for you to inquire as to how the organization will assess the needs of the communities where services will be provided, as well as, how they ensure that the impact of the volunteer efforts will be sustainable long after the volunteers depart. Is the organization an NGO and are they service-oriented or results-oriented? Is the volunteer service organization based in the country being served? Will all the proceeds collected through Volunteer Program costs and fees remain completely within the country being served or will some of it be "bled off" to cover the costs of salaries, overhead, and other expenses outside in another country? These are all questions which any program volunteer should ask of a service organizations prior to making a volunteer service commitment.
Impact and sustainability are definitely a concern for many prospective volunteers since many organizations are known to offer volunteer tourism "experiences"with little actual emphasis on the service aspect of the program. At Patron Nepal, it reamins critical that the colunteer programs which we offer are focused towards long-term sustainability. When volunteers conclude their stay with a community where they have served, those who have learned from them will then begin to pass along their knowledge and further educate other members of their community, thereby extending the learning experience. In this way, Patron Nepal program volunteers not only educate but they also empower people to now become more involved on a community level, thereby continuing to affect change in the local community long after the volunteer has departed.
As a Patron Nepal Program Volunteer, what will you be able to do to make your impact last?
While in the past it may not have been easy to keep in tough with the new friends in the community where you served as a volunteer, technology now bridges the gap; enabling volunteers to remain in contact with their new friends allowing them to keep track of the progress being made in the community which had been served, in addition to the long-term impact of their efforts. Even if a volunteer had been only able to serve for a short period of time, their efforts will never be forgotten by the people with whom they worked. By finding ways to share your knowledge with the people of the community with whom you have worked side-by-side, long after you depart, your knowledge and efforts will live on.
Another way in which impact can be measured is for volunteers travelling home to reflect upon their experience and evaluate the degree of their growth and personal development resulting fromt the efforts in serving the people of another culture. Will you be like so many others who are preoccupied with alsways obtaining the latest electronic devices, or do you now notice a bit of a change in your priorities where you are now more interested in the well-being of your fellow man? A volunteer's impact on the world neither starts nor stops with volunteer service in a distant land, as a more profound change exits; one which can be measured in the individual who donated their holiday or vacation time and utilised their time and efforts in such a way as to give selflessly to strangers in a distant land who, on a day-to-day basis, struggle to provide their families with the most basic necessities for life.
Patron Nepal "Sharing Experience"
Together for Peace & Development
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Sundhara, 44600 Kathmandu, Nepal
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