We are two volunteers working as part of a large volunteer
program in Cambodia who would like to draw attention to the work of volunteers
At many of our workplaces we work alongside expatriates in
high-profile, well-funded projects.
Admirable as these projects may be,
all too often the work of the volunteers is undervalued and not given the
professional recognition it deserves.
Volunteers are people who are
skilled in a variety of professions, and who have often given up well-paid
positions at home to come and share their skills in less developed countries
with little financial support.
While we are not looking for praise for
the work that we do, it is at times frustrating to be taken for granted and
classified as a mere volunteer rather than as a qualified
The title "volunteer" is not an indication of profession
but of salary status.
Very often volunteers are in a situation where they
train and work with local staff without financial backing and without offering
monetary reward for commitment to work.
The priority is sustainablity of
projects which often does not seem to be the case with the "hit and run" tactics
of those projects which inject a large amount of cash and equipment for a
limited period of time.
Such methods do not ensure lasting commitment
either form the project organizers or from the recipients.
After all, it
is primarily the skills and dedication of the local staff which will enable a
project to continue after the foreign advisers leave.
It is sad that in
the world of development money talks so loudly and basic practical skills
training is often overlooked.
- Ruth Bottomley, Siobhan Gorman,
Voluntary Service Overseas