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VOLUNTEERING ABROAD WITH WUSC

 
WUSC

Paul Davidson, Executive Director of WUSC, explains that this organization is engaged in international development, both in sending Canadian volunteers abroad, and in helping people from developing countries get an education in Canada.
They operate on the principle that education is the key to a more equitable world.
Their programs abroad focus on AIDS, basic education, agriculture & rural development, and private sector development.

Volunteer Profile:
Paul notes that WUSC's partner organizations increasingly tend to ask for volunteers with more life experience than the typical university student.
The fastest growing segment of volunteers at WUSC are retirees and pre-retirees.
According to Paul, WUSC is quite unique in establishing teams of volunteers that combine recent university graduates with experienced retirees. The experience of working together in a development project is rewarding for both age groups.
WUSC is looking for people who not only have the necessary skills for a particular project, but people who are good at imparting those skills to others, and who are willing to learn from others. They need people who can be sensitive to the differences between cultures, and who are willing to adapt.
Historically, more women offer to volunteer than men. Increasingly first generation immigrants are offering to volunteer, including some who want to volunteer in their region of origin, where they understand the culture and the language.
Their volunteer assignments range from two weeks to two years.
WUSC has started a "Leave for Change" program, for working people, which engages both the employer and the employee in international development; the employee does a volunteer assignment during their vacation leave, and the employer contributes financially to WUSC's international development project.

Like other volunteer-sending agencies, WUSC is recruiting volunteers who fit the needs of their partner organizations.
People interested in volunteering should monitor the volunteer opportunities on the WUSC web site, and express their interest when they see something that matches their skills.
WUSC manages the recruitment process, the medical screening requirements, and they provide pre-departure training and support. WUSC promises safe, modest accommodations, and maintains in-country staff to support their volunteers. Davidson emphasizes that this is not comparable to tourism travel, the objective of the travel is to provide volunteer support to a local organization. WUSC also helps accompanying spouses to find volunteering roles in the host community, and Paul says spouses typically report that they too have had a meaningful experience.

WUSC also offers opportunities to volunteer for a brief cross-cultural experience in Canada. They maintain a network of some 70 campus committees across Canada. These are made up of students interested in international development, and through that network, they sponsor some 50 refugees a year to study at post-secondary institutions in Canada. WUSC undertakes to support them for the first year, and to help them integrate into Canada. Volunteers are needed to help them connect with the broader community, for simple things such as learning where to get the supplies and services they need though to finding opportunities for summer jobs and involvement in the larger community.

SPONSOREDSTUDENTSPICsponsored students
Likewise, WUSC helps students from Botswana who have earned scholarships to study in Canada. In the orientation for these students to Canada, WUSC arranges home-stays with Canadian families for 7 to 10 days, to let them see first hand how Canadians live, and understand some of our cultural habits. Contact WUSC to find out how to help these students get to know Canada.

The WUSC Volunteer Experience

WUSC volunteers Rob and Jeanette Taylor have loved the experience they’ve had in Africa; they feel they get more out of WUSC assignments than they can possibly give back.

The Taylors describe their experiences on a literacy and economic development project with the Tanzanian Department of Education and on a project to develop an education centre at a rhino sanctuary. They are actively encouraging their friends and neighbours to travel there with them to see life in Africa first hand.

The Taylors see retirement as “another career”, and recommend keeping an eye on the volunteer assignments posted from time to time by the various Canadian volunteer sending agencies. If there is an assignment that fits your skills, they say “Ask yourself ‘why wouldn’t I go’, not ‘why go?’.”

The Cross-Cultural Experience

The Taylors describe some of their experiences adjusting to cultural differences and then adapting back again to Canadian practices when they came home. They say WUSC helps volunteers understand what to expect, what to bring along, how to get prepared and how to make the transition.

Who Should Volunteer?

The Taylors feel that, to be successful as a volunteer abroad, you need to be able to go with the flow, accept the unexpected, and you can’t get frustrated when things don’t go as planned. They set goals for their projects, but they have found that definite plans are quickly frustrated.

They also feel that going as far away as Africa is only possible if your family situation is very stable, because it is too far away to come and go to respond to family needs. Now that e-mail allows them to keep in touch with family, and see pictures of their grand children as they grow up, they don’t feel out of touch with family while they are abroad.

 

 

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