As we are now approaching the halfway point of the programme, it feels like an apt time to mention some of the trials and tribulations faced by volunteers during the placement. The overwhelming majority of blogs are resoundingly positive, which is in no small part down to intrinsic pressure caused by the entire endeavor: it can be difficult for people to admit they have fundraised large sums of money for imperfect projects.
As I write this I am currently holding a kettle in one hand, waiting for a rat I have recently seen to appear from it’s usual crevice. This is all in spite of the formalized complaint made to the charity two weeks ago. Often prior to departure, organizations can give the impression of slick, organized outfits. We are reassured that our health and safety will be paramount, yet the cookie crumbles in an ever so different way.
The thickness of skin needed for these trips cannot be understated. Fellow volunteers have made comments of an ableist, sexist, and anti-mental health nature, and no individual has yet to be dismissed, or even suspended. One volunteer has left partly due to discrimination from their project team, with the response from senior figures within the charity being an unmoved shrug of the shoulders. The entire situation gives the appearance of a charity which is only concerned about the amount of funding they can receive from DfID, and the main prerogative is to perpetrate the image of a successful, cohesive project.
That is not to say that all members of the organization aren’t of brilliant character. Some of the most genuine, caring, and honest people I’ve ever come across wear the same shirt as I. Unfortunately, it is also true that people who hold abhorrent views, contrary to the values of egalitarianism and basic human rights also bear the same uniform.
The entire organization of the trip for UK volunteers is nothing short of a shambles. Relatives of mine will be aware that I was forced to wait until just over a week before departure for my travel details. Despite this lackadaisical approach, phone calls were constantly made to volunteers regarding their fundraising targets. This behaviour continually perpetrates the impression that the UK volunteers are only seen as a quota, to keep the money rolling in, and the curtains raised.
International Development can be a cruel mistress, of that there is no doubt. However the ICS programme is, at it’s heart, a youth development project. I have no doubt that the individuals involved will go on to challenge the injustices of our world, this floating rock we inhabit is a better place because of them. I will work tirelessly to make a positive change within Tamale, and I genuinely believe the work we do has an overall positive impact.
It will be interesting to see the response from the organization. So fixated on maintaining their image and income are they, that I ultimately expect swift rebuttal. Considering that they are a human rights charity, I will be fascinated to see how they justify their silencing of free and honest speech, from a volunteer who is about to assault a small rodent with a kettle.