Voluntary NGO work placements, not 'voluntourism packages'
Volunteer West Africa is a young, grass-roots, 100% not-for-profit, volunteer-led non-governmental organisation (NGO). Our organisation was founded by experienced and qualified volunteering and international development experts in order to provide an ethical alternative to the mainstream, $multi-billion volunteering or 'voluntourism' sector. We are based in Ghana with offices in the UK.
Our team of passionate humanitarian professionals design and implement community-based programmes that allow members of the international community to visit West Africa in order to share knowledge that will empower local people to solve local development challenges. Primarily our programmes support and protect vulnerable West African children, providing multi-disciplinary assistance in healthcare, education, and the prevention of child exploitation.
We are not a volunteering agency or adventure travel organisation, but a fully operational NGO which allows suitable volunteers to undertake well-structured and meaningful work placements. As a VWA volunteer, you become a member of our team, you participate in a range of challenging development works, you help shape and deliver our programmes, and you undertake a role that carries a variety of responsibilities and duties. In short, you undertake a voluntary work placement with an NGO operating in the field.
Unlike most volunteering projects that are available in the mainstream volunteering sector, our programmes are designed to comply and compliment the aims and objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015; the ethical framework agreed by the international community to guide all best-practice international development work until the year 2030, and as a member of the 'Better Volunteering Better Care' network, in partnership with Save the Children, we are committed to avoiding and preventing volunteering practices which exploit or destabilise vulnerable children.
We also live and work year round in the communities we serve, employing and training local staff, working closely with our local communities to understand and prioritise their needs, and designing programmes which subsequently put local people first. So whether you are a gap-year traveller exploring an alternative career path, an under-graduate student seeking structured work experience in your chosen specialist field, or an experienced professional seeking to share your expertise to achieve serious and high-impact aims & objectives; Volunteer West Africa can offer you a range of unique volunteering opportunities that all have one thing in common: they genuinely address the complex needs of the children, families, and communities that we support.
Why choosing the right volunteering organisation is so important
The VWA model has been designed as a response to the volunteering, or 'voluntourism' sectors, which have in recent years become the subject of much controversy and legitimate criticism. From multi-national commercial volunteer agencies which divert funds away from the the local communities they are supposed to be supporting, to ineffective projects designed at distance with little understanding of the complexities of the local community they are attempting to assist, to the most distressing examples of children being placed illegitimately in orphanages simply to create institutions that volunteers can pay to visit, there are many reasons to be extremely cautious when considering which volunteering organisation to join, or even whether you should volunteer abroad at all!
Before you commit your time, money or energy to any volunteering organisation, remember that you have a responsibility to ensure that you have thoroughly researched and assessed the issues and answered the right questions: Are you qualified and capable to undertake the volunteer placement in question? Will that programme have a lasting and positive impact? Does the organisation you are joining profit from your hard work or from the fees you pay? Will you be undertaking work that could just as effectively be completed by a local community member? To learn more about the issues surrounding poor volunteering & NGO practice please read VWA's guide; 'Be a Volunteer, not a Voluntourist', the Tourism Concern sponsored brochure Ethical Volunteering or familiarise yourself with the library of valuable information located on the 'Better Volunteering Better Care' website. Poorly planned or managed volunteer organisations and projects can often do more harm than good, so it is not enough simply 'to want to help'. You have a responsibility to ensure that the organisation you choose is part of the solution and not part of the problem.
We challenge you to find a volunteering organisation with feedback as constantly positive as ours
Although we are a small and young organisation, VWA works tirelessly to monitor and improve our effectiveness in relation to the projects we implement and the volunteers who give up their time, energy and money to work on those projects. But you don't have to take our word for it, when looking for clear and honest information about the VWA experience, there's a whole host of ways that you can hear directly from our past volunteers...
We ask every VWA volunteer to complete a detailed de-brief, at the end of their volunteer placement, in which they openly appraise their time with us with a senior member of staff. Any complaints, problems, or recommendations for improvement are used to constantly check and improve the service we offer. However, as the following data demonstrates, our volunteers clearly have very little to complain about! (see survey data below).
To hear what our past volunteers have to say about the VWA experience, check out the following data:
1. Many volunteers write our team letters of thank you, stories, or testimonies about their experience with us which we always publish openly and in full for you to read. You will find these on our What Past VWA Volunteers Say Page. 2. Many volunteers publish thank you's, testimonies and reviews across our various social media sites. Of particular note, VWA currently holds a 4.9 out of 5 star rating from over 50 volunteers who have reviewed us through the Facebook Review Tool. 3. And many past VWA volunteers are also more than happy to speak with you directly, via telephone, email or Skype, to help you decide whether or not VWA is the right choice for you. Just contact a member of our team and we can put you in-touch with a range of relevant and helpful past VWA volunteers. 4. Finally, VWA carries out a formal VWA Volunteer Satisfaction Survey at the close of each year in which every volunteer who joined us throughout that year is asked to provide structured feedback about our performance. In 2015, this survey was designed specifically to address four major concerns, identified by the International Eco-tourism Society, as the four most common criticisms which volunteers raised regarding the volunteering organisations they chose. Namely: 1) Poor accommodation, 2) Poor staff, 3) Distrust regarding how the volunteer's money was used, 4) And the sense that the work they/the organisation undertook did not prioritise the needs of the local community.
In addition, as we ask every year, the VWA 2015 Volunteer Satisfaction Survey asked our volunteers to answer the most important question of all... would you recommend us?
The 2015 VWA Volunteer Satisfaction Survey:
In our 2015 VWA Volunteer Satisfaction Survey, all VWA volunteers were asked to 'Agree', 'Disagree' or state as 'Unsure' their positions towards the following five statements (the responses we received are published below each statement):
1.Statement: "The VWA Volunteer Guest House is clean, safe, comfortable and well equipped."
Responses: 100% Agreed.
2.Statement: "VWA staff are friendly, hard-working and welcoming"
Responses: 97% Agreed and 3% were Unsure.
3.Statement: "All money you paid or donated to VWA was clearly spent ethically & effectively."
Responses: 93% Agreed and 7% were Unsure.
4.Statement: "VWA's highest priority is the children, families & communities that it supports."
Responses: 97% Agreed and 3% were Unsure.
5.Statement: "You would recommend VWA to any prospective volunteer."
Responses: 100% Agreed.
So... what will you actually be doing if you volunteer with Volunteer West Africa?
Bespoke, multidisciplinary volunteer work placements, designed on a case-by-case basis to take account of your individual & unique skills & experience, to create an effective role for you within our dedicated & passionate team:
VWA Volunteer West Africa offers an exciting range of opportunities that allow international volunteers, from all backgrounds and skill levels, young or old, to engage and experience the complex challenges and joys of international development work. All our volunteers live and work together, at our beautiful beach-side volunteer and staff guesthouse, located between the sleepy, traditional fishing village of Oshieye and the dance-filled nightlife and rich cultural setting of Kokrobite town, on the south coast of Ghana. Located within the same secure and well managed compound as our guesthouse is the VWA Daycare & Nursery Centre for Vulnerable Children, so any volunteer joining our team will inevitably play a part in the lives of up to 70 incredibly heart-warming and underprivileged children that VWA cares for on a daily basis, before the children return to family homes each night (to read a collection of articles which highlight the problems with 'Orphanage Volunteering, please visit this site). Our primary objective is to support children and families to access and benefit from education, so much of our work is related to improving local people's circumstances in order to provide a brighter future for West African children. This means we work in a broad range of development disciplines, over long periods of time, including healthcare, education, and childcare, to name just a few, and, as a small but responsible actor in the professional international development sector, we design each of our projects based on a detailed assessment of the needs of the stakeholders and the guiding framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2015.
We work with each volunteer who applies to us to design a unique volunteer placement which specifically incorporates the unique skills and interests that that volunteer can offer. This provides a protection against our volunteers being asked to complete works that they are not qualified or confident enough to complete. So if suitable, you might combine a main project focus, such as helping to develop a childcare plan for the children we support at a local school for deaf & hearing impaired children, or desig a malaria screening and prevention campaign for a local community, or working with VWA staff to develop the facilities and classroom decorations in our Daycare & Nursery Centre, with a range of general day-to-day activities that are central to the normal operation of a busy charity/NGO. So VWA volunteer placements offer a broad, rich and tailer-made opportunity for you to gain valuable project planning, implementation or management-based expertise whilst also gaining valuable work experience in the grass-roots NGO or charity sector.
From teacher training for our Daycare Centre staff; to one-to-one tutoring for young adults in a range of subjects; to running structured educational-play groups for nursery children; to distributing donated materials to underprivileged community members; to delivering health & hygiene workshops to single parents; to designing clinical vaccination programmes for whole communities alongside our partners the Ghana Healthcare Service; to caring for, bathing and feeding the vulnerable children under our care; to simply assisting in the operation of a very busy and passionate NGO... VWA can offer you a well-rounded and rewarding volunteer placement that makes the very most of your individual skills, interests and ambitions.
Perhaps most importantly, VWA understands that your experience of volunteering in Africa must be challenging and rewarding. If your experience with Volunteer West Africa is a good one, you will leave with a better understanding of the reality of billions of people around the world. You will continue to benefit those children and families by inspiring other potential volunteers; to sustaining important relationships with the members of the community your volunteering placement has introduced you to; to acting as an ambassador or fundraiser for the people of West Africa in future; to gaining experience or motivation that drives you forward to help improve the lives of children in other places... if you find great reward in your volunteer experience with Volunteer West Africa then we will have found an ally for life in you. For that reason, we take our responsibility towards your volunteer experience very seriously.
If you would like to learn more about VWA's organisational aims & objectives, visit Our Work Page, and if you would like to view the current range of VWA volunteer placements available,visit our Current Volunteer Programmes Page, and, finally, if you would like to discuss anything at all with a member of our team, please get in contact via our Contact Us Page.
Thank you. We hope to welcome you to our team!