One of the questions we get asked most often is, “Who will support me on my Development Together placement?” This question comes from all our participants – both student and professional volunteers considering a placement with us.
When Development Together was still just a thought bubble, our management team did extensive research into what level of support other organisations give to their volunteer both before they leave, once they are in their host country and after they return. We found that:
a) Support provided before you leave is often done on-line, requiring the volunteer to read a lot of documents and/or complete online modules.
b) Once you arrive in your host country support is usually provided by local staff. Sometimes they may have trained in their own country and have professional qualifications that are similar to the volunteer’s backgrounds, or they may simply have a background in tourism and be able to speak English well.
c) On your return to your home country support provided may be limited.
At Development Together we reviewed the literature to identify what volunteers want from support staff and what best practice recommends. We found the following:
1. Volunteers want to feel welcomed. Our support staff at DT meet you on your first day in country, take you out for dinner, show you around the town where you will be staying and introduce you to your partner site. You will be staying at the same accommodation as your support staff and they can be contacted 24/7 and will happily answer all of your questions.
2. Volunteers want organised and considerate support staff. Volunteers understand that not everything will always go to plan. At DT our staff are able to manage any changes or difficult situations easily, without major concerns for the group, and will communicate this to you as soon as they can.
3. Volunteers want support staff who understand the issues affecting the country where they are volunteering. At DT our staff have an intimate knowledge about the country they are working in and can share specific details and knowledge about the social, technological, economic, political and environmental issues affecting the country you are traveling in and how it impacts on local peoples lives.
4. Volunteers want culturally aware support staff. Our DT staff have all been to the host country at least once before, if not many times before and understand the cultural nuances that can affect you, the partner site and how things operate.
5. Volunteers want knowledgeable support staff. Our DT staff are suitably qualified to provide expert advice and support. All of them are degree qualified, with many having done additional studies in development and aid.
6. Volunteers want support staff with an appropriate level of specific knowledge and expertise. DT staff have worked at our partner sites before and know the locals, clients and specific area. This enables them to assist volunteers to feel safe and supported when trying new things at the partner site.
7. Volunteers want open lines of communication with support staff. When you need someone to go to for answers to technical/clinical questions, your DT support staff will be there for you. They are also the person who you can touch base with if you are feeling homesick or worried.
8. Volunteers want to learn from support staff. Volunteers expect our DT staff to provide them with training and development as well as capacity building into local staff through the delivery of relevant professional development or on-site training. All of our DT staff are briefed on how and when to seize training opportunities and spend time teaching with volunteers as required.
9. Volunteers expect support staff to be competent and follow procedures and guidelines. Our DT staff are trained and highly capable to manage an Emergency/Incident. They are all Police Cleared, have training on appropriate ways to work with vulnerable adults and children, are First Aid trained and can competently run a partner site induction program.
10. Volunteers want to enjoy their time with support staff. Building rapport and developing relationships is all part of ensuring volunteers get the most our of their placement, after all, it is not all about the work! Having fun and exploring the country with your DT staff member helps to solidify the trust relationship and also creates great networking opportunities.
At Development Together we take pride in understanding the needs of our volunteers and ensuring the support staff that work with us are qualified, trained, competent and personable! We feel that our point of difference is in the way that we prepare volunteers before they leave and provide support in-country via our Australian Clinical or Technical Facilitator’s who accompany our small groups* and provide on-going remote support and follow up on the participants’ return.
Our pre-departure team consists of our MD, Accountant, Administration Officer and Marketing Officer. Each of these staff members works with the participant to make sure you understand the placement and what to expect. We regularly communicate with participants, process your paperwork, provide visa, health and immunisation advice, answer any of your questions. liaise with universities, and run face to face briefing sessions (compulsory for each participant to attend) to ensure your placement runs smoothly.
Development Together staff members provide in-country Clinical/Technical Facilitator support for all of our group placements. Our staff are qualified with at least a Bachelor Degree and have relevant work experience in the area where you will be volunteering. For example, on our Health Placements our current Clinical Facilitators qualified Australian Speech Pathologists, Physiotherapists and a Registered Nurse. All of them have extensive experience working in clinical settings, as well as supervising inter-professional teams. On our Humanitarian Engineering/Environment placements our Technical Facilitators have a Bachelor in Engineering with relevant work experience in industry, and have also supervised volunteer groups in the past. All of our Facilitators have been facilitators in-country at least once, if not numerous times in the past (some as many as 14 times!). They have an intimate knowledge of the country, its history and specific concerns relevant to your placement.
On your return to Australia our Clinical/Technical Facilitator follows up with each participant and runs face to face group or individual de-briefing sessions. We encourage participants to give us feedback about their internship/placement and make suggestions to enhance future participants experiences. We can also provide guidance and referrals if you have any ongoing medical concerns or would like to speak with a counsellor about your experiences. we also run annual Alumni events where you can reconnect with your group, and we communicate regularly with our past participants and encourage them to act as Student Ambassador’s , helping us to spread the word about the good work that Development Together is doing in the developing world.
If knowing how Development Together staff will support you on your clinical placement/internship then why not consider joining us and having the experience of a lifetime?
*Please note that our Vietnam Engineering/Environment groups are facilitated by a Vietnamese Engineer.