Volunteer Exchange Models

Africans have strong traditions of volunteering for social and political change (Caprara et al., 2012 ; Mati, Wu, El Taraboulsi, & Edwards, 2014 ; Patel, Perold, Mohamed, & Carapinha, 2007; Patel, 2003; Wilkinson-Maposa & Fowler, 2009; Wilkinson-Maposa, Fowler, Oliver-Evans, & Mulenga, 2005). Most volunteer informally[1] where activities typically involve interpersonal contacts between servers and beneficiaries at local community levels. Informal volunteerism is often a survivalist mutual aid response to pervasive state inability to meet individual and community needs (Caprara et al., 2012 ; Perold & Graham, 2013). In these situations, the socioeconomic profile of volunteers corresponds closely with those of beneficiaries. This contrasts with the volunteer profile in industrialized societies where servers are likely to be from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds (Caprara et al., 2012; Everatt, Habib, Maharaj, & Nyar, 2005 ; Graham, Patel, Ulriksen, Moodley, & Mavungu, 2013; Leigh et al., 2011; Patel et al., 2007).

The advent of formal volunteer-involving organizations in the last few decades, coupled with advances in information and communications technology, has led to new formal models and practices of volunteering in Africa as elsewhere in the world (VOSESA, 2011). Notwithstanding various other categorizations, viewed through a North/South dichotomy of origin and direction of volunteer’s action, the dominant formal international volunteer programs in eastern and southern Africa—including the youth involving ones—fall under North-South, South-North, and South-South models.[2]

The North-South model involves sending volunteers from developed to developing countries (Allum, 2012; VOSESA, 2013; Wijeyesekera, 2011). This historically conventional model of many Northern volunteer sending agencies (Fulbrook, 2007) emerged in colonial and/or neocolonial and Cold War contexts. At its worst, the North-South model is condemned as ‘imperialist, paternalistic charity, volunteer tourism, or a self-serving quest for career and personal development on the part of well-off Westerners’ (Devereux, 2008; p. 358; Healey, 2010; Roberts, 2004). The North-South model can be marred with hierarchical relationships and supply driven volunteer placement that undermines potential for reciprocity and mutual benefit[3] (Ouma & Dimaras, 2013 ; Perold et al., 2013). Sometimes, like some other development interventions, the North-South model fails to acknowledge, underestimates, and undermines the agency of individuals in the global South ‘to bring about social change by themselves, on their own terms’ (Green, 2000, p. 70; Devereux, 2008; Ouma & Dimaras, 2013). Despite these criticisms, there are multiple positive contributions of North-South programs. Part of the problem with the classic North-South programs, however, emanates from the fact that the most prominent ones are run by Northern Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) whose proximity ‘to wider political and policy processes, such as foreign policy objectives’ of sending countries creates tensions over their accountability (Devereux, 2008).

In redressing some deficiencies of the North-south model, two recent adaptations in international volunteer programs (South-North and South-South) emphasizing reciprocity, skills sharing, and recognition of Southern capacity have evolved. Under the South-North model, Southern volunteers are placed in developed countries with a view to reciprocal skills sharing and development. South-South programs involve placement of Southern volunteers in another developing country (Fulbrook, 2007). The South-South model is the focus of the current chapter.

While objectives of South-South programs include skills sharing, reciprocity, mutual learning, and understanding, a central goal is fostering development cooperation among developing countries and utilization of the agency of poor Southern communities in their own development (VOSESA, 2013). Evidence from South- South programs suggests that they are challenging the dominance of the North in aid and development especially in fostering youth empowerment, community development, and regional integration (cf. FK-Norway, 2009). Further, South-South contributions are helping reduce the ethical pitfalls of instrumentalizing southern communities as only useful in providing privileged Northern volunteers with opportunities for gaining experience in development work (Plewes & Stuart, 2007). As such, though recent, the South-South youth volunteer exchange model has been adopted by among others, Canada World Youth and Southern African Trust whose impacts are focus of this chapter. The two initiatives exemplify an emergent phenomenon worth evaluating with a view to bringing to the surface the contributions of South-South volunteer programs in Africa’s development, especially, their promise to build integration through volunteering.

Canada World Youth South-South Young Leaders in Action (CWY YLA) and Southern Africa Trust (SAT) SayXchange: Founded in Canada in 1971, CWY is an international not-for-profit organization focused on providing educational opportunities for youth aged 15-29 years in leadership for sustainable development. Among CWY programs is Youth Leaders in Action (YLA). YLA offers opportunities for youth between 18 and 24 years to volunteer, experience, and learn about another country, and at the same time, gain better understanding of their own countries and communities. YLA has a variety of North-South, South-North, and South-South exchanges. Instituted in 2009, the South-South version of YLA in Africa is a recent adaptation of a previously North-South program to localize development interventions. CWY works through partnerships with local NGOs in Kenya (Kijabe Environment Volunteers-KENVO), Mozambique (Youth Association for Development of Volunteer Service-AJUDE), South Africa (Volunteer Centre Cape Town), and Tanzania (Uvikiuta) who are given a grant to collaboratively run a reciprocal youth volunteer exchange between Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa, and

Mozambique and South Africa in Southern Africa. The novelty of CWY YLA is in blending the funding model of North-South programs, with emergent South-South models that leaves Southern partners running the show, a testament to growing sensitivity of Northern development actors to Southern capacity.

The partner organization in each participating country selects and trains nine volunteers, host families, and placement organizations and community. The selected volunteers are paired with nine others from a neighboring country who live with host families and work in local organizations involved in community development to form a cohort. Each cohort spends 3 months in one country before moving to another community in the partnered country to spend another 3 months. Host families and organizations receive a token honorarium for hosting costs.

SayXchange is a program of Southern African Trust (SAT)-an independent, nonprofit agency supporting deeper and wider regional engagement of citizens and their organizations in overcoming poverty in southern Africa. SAT complements SADC’s vision of a common future for all southern Africa people. SayXchange is an indigenous initiative started in 2010 in response to the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa that is aimed at promoting regional integration by fostering a regional identity among young people in southern African. AFS Interculture (South Africa) and Associa§ao Mo§ambicana para o Desenvolvimento da Famflia (AMODEFA) are the SayXchange implementing partners. SayXchange targets youth aged 18-25 years, whom they place in a community-based organization in another Southern African country. These volunteers live with a local host family; interact, work, and learn from host communities with a view to embrace diversity, oneness, and interdependence of humanity. In addition, volunteers are expected to learn leadership skills, active citizenship, and appreciate the value of volunteerism in building inclusive and cohesive communities. The program further aims to cultivate awareness of regional cultures and development issues.

The two programs operate on an underlying principle of reciprocity; involvement of volunteers; community-based host organizations and families in promotion of development cooperation and regional integration, skills sharing, and mutual learning. Though expected to have at least a high school qualification, no formal techni- cal/work skills experience is required of youth volunteers in either program.

Social analysis systems: This study utilized Social Analysis Systems (SAS2) methodology. SAS2 is a collaborative inquiry and social engagement process that applies qualitative and quantitative approaches in participatory experiential learning.[4] Data was collected using group interviews that included self-reporting questions for volunteers, host families, and organizations. A total of 18 group interviews were conducted; that is, one group interview per participant category (volunteers, host families, and organizations) per program (CWYYLA and SAT-SayXchange) in each participating country (South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya for CWY YLA; and South Africa and Mozambique for SAT SayXchange). The interviews were conducted between August and September 2011. The multilayered data sourcing was necessitated by the nested nature of interactions between program actors (volunteers, host families/communities, and organizations), especially the need to triangulate results from these categories.

SAS2 does not measure whether programs are successful or not. Rather, it assumes that programs do have impacts on set objectives. Data collection exercises, in reality, are akin to ranking and prioritization of impacts. However, SAS2 provides room for nuanced assessments as discussions enable explanations for various ratings to be made. Nonetheless, the methodology limits discussions to only what is identified and does not probe, for example, why other impacts are not prioritized or mentioned.

  • [1] Unpaid work carried out for a charitable, social, or political purpose in an informal network ofextended families, friends, and neighbours (Taniguchi, 2012).
  • [2] For example, volunteering can be modelled on basis of formality (formal versus informal) orspace of interaction between servers and beneficiaries (virtual/online or physical). For this chapter,youth volunteer programmes involve young people in stipended organisational schemes that benefits host communities, organisations, and volunteers.
  • [3] Reciprocity “represents the general idea that doing good is tied to the expectation that it will becompensated by future rewards” (Manatschal & Freitag, 2014, p. 209)
  • [4] For a detailed description of SAS,2 see Chevalier (2008). For a full description of the specific SAS2tools utilised for this study, see Mati and Perold (2012).
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