We have very mixed experiences with volunteers! There are many points in a year, when want to stop offering volunteering. We have become disillusioned. When updating this blog, I notice how much I need to take out more personal things and need to add formal pages like a code of conduct, application form etc.
We have been cheated, things stolen, property destroyed, people disappeared in the early morning without paying...
People are rude to the children, to our family, use us, lie to us, write mean letters to us, spread defaming lies.
In the past 6 months we have a lot of trouble like this, due to negative press about orphanages in Cambodia and Nepal and volunteers assuming that every Asian person is corrupt and will misuse their money? We had people staying 2 weeks and telling us afterwards, they had a terrible time and they never opened their mouth, that we could help them. New people staying a week later and having a great time and staying longer than planned.
We can't go on like this. We need to make a careful choice of our volunteers and have decided to stop working with workaway and helpx. These are great ideas, they were good for us for a while, but we seem to get most trouble makers through them. We need long-term, not short-term volunteers. People, who have done their research and compared volunteering offers and can value, what we offer. We can't deal anymore with people, who are looking for a one week holiday experience. It is too complex and needs too much instruction and cultural adjustment for this. When I still lived in the home, I needed to spend 2-4 hours a day taking care of the volunteers. They freed us a little from chores, but I had to cut back the time I spent with the children for the volunteers. We tried different models. I tried social workers and nurses. They planned our day in Western style, we agreed on a duty plan and in the end, they didn't inform each other nor us, that they had left and a child nearly drowned in the pool, they were supposed to watch. Luckily we never go off duty and always have an ear out for suspicious silences or noises. You can't imagine, what we all experienced in these years since we offer volunteering. Young people becoming maniac or paranoid, DEET poisoning, Hepatitis A carried into the home and urgent referral to the local hospital. Other virus brought in from the traveling before and we all sick for a week!
We had volunteers, who got very very drunk behind our back and secretely asked the children to help them hide their bottles! Some crossed illegally into Burma, had motorcycle accidents, got themsleves into dangerous situations in town (being out partying). We had a person take photos of the children under the excuse of giving us donations and then raised money for their own pockets! People get frustrated, don't like it, because they came with wrong expectations and then become verbally aggressive in oral or written form. Who gives them the right to accuse us, without any reason or proof of mismanagement of funds? An easy argument today with all the scandals published in the press. I am member of groups for responsible volunteering and watch carefully what is going on and try to follow all rules.
Today I need to tell my older children: You can't trust any volunteer easily. They are not our friends. They are volunteers.We don't know, if they lie to us. They may seem nice, but often they don't understand us. Don't tell them anything private. We never know, what they will do with any information. it may end up on facebook or totally misquoted in a complaint, we don't know where.
We noticed, that many Western people always think negative, assume the worst, interpret, misinterpret. Think their way is the measure of all. Is the only proper way to do things. It is not. There are several ways. Asian people think differently, that is scientifically proven. Different doesn't mean worser, can be better. They are so stuck with their luxury and consumption and what they think they need it and we should follow them. Some things they do is disgusting for us. Or bizarre and wasteful. They seem unfit, lack life skills.
I volunteered myself several times and know other projects in our town. I know, that it is not a unique experience, what we went through. It is a common experience. Volunteers are either great or really bad. They freak out. There doesn't seem to be a middle way. When we started to offer volunteering I was naive. I tried to offer, what I had been looking for. Direct. No big organisation involved. No big money to pay. Enrichment for the children. Better English skills, practicing social skills. Meeting people from different nationalities and backgrounds. A fair deal for both. A little income to support the living costs and an affordable volunteering offer.
The positive side:
We met some really great people on the way. Real friendships. Wonderful persons, who were a joy to be with every day. A facebook community evelved. People I can share experiences with. The kids stay in contact with them through facebook as well. They learnt English, a little French, a little Spanish.
Hard to say, if we had more positive or more negative experiences. Probably more positive. And each tells us to carry on and take the risk. The negative ones seem to stay longer, are so disappointing, hurtful.
We decided not to stop completely, due to these positive experiences. We need to change the conditions and raise the prices. We will still be lower than others. We need to assure the privacy of our family. No more live-in volunteers, unless we got to know them. Signed application forms, fees to be paid in advance ...
We need commitment. Reliability. Sorry for all the nice people, who suffer from the "other" ones and have to go through the hassle now.