|Volunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNDP - UNV, 64 p.)|
|V. Principles and characteristics of volunteer use|
Most interventions will consist of a variety of community, national and international VDWs. Living and working in communities, usually for two to three years, makes it mandatory that VDWs are fully aware of the socio-economic and cultural setting of the community. Community and national volunteers bring with them the advantage that they are already well-versed in the context of their own country. For international VDWs, however, language training and acculturation may be necessary, and VSAs should plan accordingly. A mixed-team approach to projects also mitigates the problems of language barriers.
It is important to keep in mind, however, two operational principles relevant to acculturation:
(i) community organisations and NGOs frequently have a limited capacity to accept, internalise and act upon externally introduced ideas, programmes and strategies; and
(ii) this capacity may be further constrained by the lack of formal education of most or many community members, as well as any residue of negative experience with "outsiders" who may be in positions of power.
Consequently, VDWs should adjust their pace according to the capacity of the community group or NGO with whom they are cooperating. In addition, communities themselves have a considerable store of practice wisdom to offer, which may complement the work of VDWs. This point was eloquently illustrated by one of the long-serving expatriate workers of the Undugu Society of Kenya:
"In an NGO, the only way to address the root cause of poverty is by giving people confidence in their capacities in solving their problems. People should realise that development starts in their minds, not from the money they get. If people want to change, they can, since they have the capacity, the intelligence and the opportunities."