Looking for trusted and reliable volunteer opps in Haiti
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Jan 3, 2013 5:46 AM Last Post By: gandolf
Apr 1, 2011 10:00 PM
Looking for trusted and reliable volunteer opps in HaitiHi there
I am a highly experienced Social Worker who hasnt done a lot of travel but am now wanting to head to Haiti for a stint and see what i can provide in the way of social support services.
I have done plenty of my own research but thought I would sound out this forum to see if anyone had any ideas, thoughts, caveats etc...
I guess as I have limited travel experience and understand it must be pretty unstable in Haiti right now with the elections and all the health and social issues that go along with a disaster stricken country- I ideally need an org that can provide guidance and support initially.
Anyway any advice would be much appreciated. I will continue to look elsewhere and do have governmental contacts who can give me a steer too.
In advance- Merci
Apr 2, 2011 7:45 AM
1Go on line and look for a job or volly opportunity in the professional circuits - not a travel site. If you are a social worker, and have the interest of child protection (and I'm sure you are and do) then do not bypass the rigors of filling out applications.
Can I tell you how I have cringed with the plane-loads of unscreened 'volunteers' - how many were/are pedophiles? How carefully do any of these overnight NGOs look into the background of their workers, etc.? Are Haitian kids somehow not worth the bother that we wound insist on for our own?
Some places you can look -
also - please, please do some research into the culture and history of this country and her people. If you have not traveled much, you may not be familiar with how culture colors everything - including what 'help' is. Additionally the history is critical to understand.
Lastly - I will say that Haitians are better suited to do this work. There are Haitian social workers. They speak the language and know their way around.
Nuf said from me.
Apr 2, 2011 7:08 PM
2Thanks for your advice Parryander. Well said and I agee that it is a real concern that there is no screening process for a lot of organizations. It the first thing we do in the states for people who want access to vulnerable children. Haitian children should be no different. Even things such as unsolicited photos can be considered a form of abuse ESP when they end on the Internet.
I am not planning to go anywhere without doing a lot of research. Not only about the social issues in Haiti but also the culture. I have had a lot of dealings with refugees and new immigrants in the states and first thing I do, that any social worker should do, is try to understand the culture and cultural context. Otherwise you will simply be trying to imprint/introduce your own beliefs and culture to an already stressful situation. I often hear for example of volunteers buying shoes for children in Haiti and other countries. And the first these kids do is take them to market and sell them for food for their family. Not the best example but it demonstrates well the issue of us Americans/europeons et al thinking that shoes are an absolute basic necessity but the reality is that an even more basic need has not been met. This is probably more about the needs assessment process. However,there is a cultural disconnect there too. I have much reading to do. Thank you for those links. I do intend to look into more formal avenues as well. This forum is good however as it provides some good practical on the ground tips.
I agree that locals are the best placed to deal with social issues. In fact most issues. My intention is work along side them if I can. Learn from them. I speak French and am going to begin some kreole lessons next month. I hope this will help.
Having said all this I may decide not to go, if after researching I find I am only going to add to the problem- mindful too of rastaincubas words in the grassroots/edv thread.
Apr 2, 2011 8:07 PM
3Hey - do go! If you start researching you will not want to miss this place or the people - especially if you learn the language!
Thanks for taking my words well - I am tossing out a lot of warning shots these days - it's been a really tough year and all the activity n Haiti has really made me pause and look hard at what has happened. Ultimately this site is (I think) about responsible travel. I really want to advocate for that.
You won't add to the problem (in my thinking) if you can believe that Haitians should and can take care of themselves.
If you (and not just you, Bonbon - I try to write to the wider 'you') are a professional there are lots of professional organizations that are active in Haiti - from medical groups and artists through Rotary. Those are great ways to connect, visit, and really engage with the culture and people.
Apr 3, 2011 2:48 PM
Are all reputable volunteer organizations currently based in Haiti. I've worked with them all. For what you want to do; I would suggest GrassRoots as they already have a partner organization focusing on psychosocial programming which is so badly needed here in Haiti.
Apr 4, 2011 2:43 PM
5Thanks for your helpful advice. I do intend to still go Haiti. I have a lot of work to do between now and then though. Thanks for your vote of confidence for GRU and EDV. I am sure these orgs would suit some people. But I personally couldn't sit by and watch poorly executed projects fail at the expense of the children and community.
I am amazed that GRU in particular have allowed such an inexperienced person co ordinate their orphanage program. She fails to understand the complex issues facing Haiti. I have a better idea and I haven't spent the last six months incountry!!! To be perfectly blunt she comes across as bit of an idiot. In it for the photo opportunities more than the work. Not for me. I think GRU do seem to have good building programs though. But that's not my area. I don't know much about the Hands Org so will have to do some more reading.
Apr 5, 2011 7:00 AM
As a side topic here, I am currently working on a website which will address just problem we are talking about here - If you want to volunteer with a great organization and make a meaningful contribution -- where do you go? who do you go with? how do you know you are making the right choices?
The website SavvyVolunteers savvyvolunteers.com will assist volunteers in this process by providing a forum for volunteers to review their prior experiences and enable those looking for experiences to see what organization and experiences are most valued.
Right now I am looking to get some feedback on what is to be on the site... what is most important to you when you are looking for opportunities to volunteer?
I do not want to take away from the conversation here. If you would be willing to discuss your perspective withe me, please send me a private message or ping me on twitter @llorberb
Apr 5, 2011 2:14 PM
Nov 25, 2012 5:06 AM
8I have not yet personally figured out what the group is doing, myself. I read the website and see projects that they claim, but I know are separate, and some other 'projects' that seem to be summer camp projects for young, earnest long-stay tourists. I don't see Haitian leadership, but a couple of Haitians on staff.
But that is just my take - honestly, Haiti is not a volunteer opportunity, a place to try out funky ideas, a population of people who are without understanding of how outsiders use them. They get it - they've been through this for generations.
Nov 27, 2012 3:18 AM
9Hi parryander, that's a fair call.
Actually Haiti communitere is not much different to GRU in that their main aim is and was to act as a conduit for aid groups. It was a needs gap observed by GRU founders and is being carried on to HC. The main problem with GRU was the encumbant staff, their capabilities and the lax way they allowed long term 'tourist' volunteers, try (and I mean try) to promote sustainability and tragically would use children as promotional tools for donations. Very wrong but I don't think this was intentional exploitation just lack of experience ( and in Emma's case, just not that clued up). It really was more of a party house, as it was. HC are trying to change this. Not easy but they are building capacity and now have good staff on board.
Btw which thread was bonbon referring to? The rastaincuba thread? I can't find it.
Dec 21, 2012 4:09 PM
10Found the thread for those who are interested:
(0 star Hotel)
From US$41.50 per night
(5 star Hotel)
From US$160.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$89.00 per night