The Diaspora Volunteering Programme (DVP), a group of diaspora organisations supported by VSO and the Diaspora Volunteering Alliance, are encouraging people from African Caribbean and other ethnic minority backgrounds to consider volunteering abroad as a way to protect or increase their skills and accelerate their recovery from the economic downtown.
As mixed ethnic groups reportedly suffer the biggest increase in recession-related unemployment, VSO is calling for members of the Diaspora community to consider volunteering as a way to enhance and develop skills.
Evelyn Rodrigues, VSO Team Leader said:
“Slashed training budgets, stalled promotions and limited resources during the recession caused professional development to grind to a halt. Volunteering is a great way to not only re-invigorate your skills and challenge yourself, but your input could make a dent on global poverty and even save lives.”
The Diaspora Volunteering Programme, run by VSO, is designed to capitalise on the unique contribution that the Diaspora community can make in the fight to reach Millennium Development Goals. Twenty three organisations, including Development Impact for Nigeria, African Child Trust, African Foundation Stone and Welfare Association make up the Diaspora Volunteering Programme.
Evelyn Rodrigues continues:
"The Diaspora Volunteering Programme builds on the huge impact of remittances and encourages people to donate time and skills, as well as money. Mobilising skilled volunteers from the Diaspora, people who can connect and relate quickly to local communities, is one of the most effective ways to have an impact overseas. "
Unanimously, all return volunteers have shared their elated feelings of “finding themselves”, “finding direction” and “career rejuvenation” after trips to various programmes across Africa and Asia.
London based return volunteer Abiola Ogunsola, 56, is a Programme Leader and works in educational community development at the University of East London. Abiola volunteered via Development Impact for Nigeria (DIFN) - a member of the DVP and spent time in Adamawa State and Lagos in Nigeria, January 2010.
She is one of many recent return volunteers who have benefited both personally and professionally. She said:
“It was fascinating to see the different cultures and geographical environments of Nigeria and it was a real pleasure to work with other Nigerians. I go to Nigeria quite frequently but volunteering for Development Impact for Nigeria provided a way for me to volunteer my skills and give something back.”
Abiola also feels this experience has maximised her job performance: “I intend to focus my professional research at the University of East London, where I teach, on Nigeria. I would say about 20 per-cent of the students in some of my lectures are from Nigeria and my volunteering experiences have provided important insight into the education cultures from which they come, so volunteering has been really useful professionally.”
Abiola - who intends to continue volunteering - wants to encourage more people from the Diaspora to volunteer. She adds:
“I would encourage people who have not been to Nigeria for a long time to get involved with a volunteering programme like this. I think it is important to go back to our countries of origin outside of the context of visiting family and friends because in this way, we get to see Nigeria differently and more positively – 'the light not the lampshade'.”
DVP volunteer placements run from two weeks to two months and skilled roles include psychiatrists, nurses, and accountants and communications professionals.
To find out how you can volunteer visit www.diasporavolunteeringalliance.org.
For further information visit www.vso.org.uk.
For information on Development Impact for Nigeria visit www.difn.org.uk