Volunteer Diary: InterVol Training Day 2018

Ever wondered what the InterVol volunteers get up to on their training days? Monica Brownwood, OXAB Bulgaria 2018 volunteer, gives us a taste of what she learnt during a training day this March, and why these events are so important.

The opening session at the 2018 InterVol Training Day, held at the University of Birmingham, concerned our motivations and expectations for the projects that we will be undertaking in the summer; there were groups going to Bulgaria and Kenya in attendance. We examined our expectations of what the experience might be like to best prepare. We also spoke about the expectation gap, and how it is important to remember that you cannot plan everything, and most of it will be unknown. This will be both an exciting and challenging part of our project that I’m sure will teach us a lot.

After this session we moved on to learning about the benefits and risks of international volunteering. This session focused on the importance of sustainable, responsible, and critically engaged volunteering activities overseas. We explored some of the benefits of volunteering such as the chance to learn new skills, to experience a new culture, and to raise awareness of global issues. We also looked at some of the risks of international volunteering, such as voluntourism, creating a dependency on foreign volunteers, and volunteers acting as burden on local communities. It was important to learn about the ethical issues of the work we are undertaking to make sure our projects our as sustainable and worthwhile as possible.

Another important session focused on personal issues, such as how to look after ourselves, physically and mentally, as well as what challenges we may face. We discussed vaccinations, what essential items to take with us, homesickness and other emotional challenges, as well as culture shock. We were provided with plenty of sources if we wanted to research this in more depth.

The training day will better prepare Monica for her time spent volunteering in Bulgaria with OXAB this summer (photo: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria)

After lunch, we had a long session on international child protection; we discussed safeguarding and the different types of abuse that individuals may face. This included sexual, emotional, physical and neglect. We were taught how to spot the signs of a child being abused, and to pass on any information if we suspect that a child is being exploited or is vulnerable. This session was rather interactive because we had to rank scenarios of abuse in order of the most severe and less severe. We also were given situations, and then had to explain how we would react, and what we would do.

We then had a session on personal security, and how to identify risks and explore countermeasures. We examined the difference between a threat and a vulnerability, thinking of our own examples. A threat is an event that may result in harm or injury, or loss or damage to property or reputation; there are direct and indirect threats. A vulnerability is the extent to which you are exposed to a threat. This can vary according to personal characteristics, such as gender, location, type of equipment, class, and so on. We explored ways to control risk by reducing the likelihood of it happening and mitigating its impact if it happens. We also discussed travel security, and how to keep ourselves safe when on the move, such as when faced with a checkpoint.

Finally, we discussed how to make the most of our trip, with 10 top tips. These included: make sure to prepare; get out of your comfort zone; get involved; take care of yourself; learn; teamwork; memories; gain experience; stay involved; and spread the word.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and I learned a lot! I feel that this information has prepared me more for my time in Bulgaria.

(featured image: Francois Schnell- Flickr)

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