Friday, May 14, 2010

Volunteer

The point of humanitarian aid is to do such an awesome job that we become unemployed, right? Then I must really be AMAZING. Taking that as our main criteria for success in the aid world, I’m basically one of the top workers out there – I have never ever, ever even been employed. Beat that.

My myriad of supervisors here shake their heads and tell me to not give up hope – that I’m doing a great job – that eventually something will fall into place. They say that the lack of response that anyone in HR departments gives me is embarrassing. They say not to take it personally – it’s not personal – it’s not personal. They say oh how they wish they could keep me here. And then they ask me to work Saturdays, and Sundays, too, to complete this budget narrative or that work plan, quickly, now, before the aid world throws me back out on the street at the end of the month. And I do. Because I care about the “beneficiaries”, I care about the “beneficiaries”, I care about the “beneficiaries”.

Person after person after person talks about volunteers disparagingly. Volunteers: People who aren’t real aid experts, just off to find adventure or to feel good about themselves while on holiday. Volunteers: We aren’t the doctors, we are the people who lie and introduce ourselves as doctors at cocktail parties in order to get the attention of the hot men in the room. We’re the idiots who want to make a difference in the lives of gang-raped orphans by hugging them, because we don’t understand the true complexities of the profession. No wonder I get no response, often not even cut-and-paste form letters, from job applications – I’ve been a volunteer in four different countries.

Volunteers: We shouldn’t even exist.

10 comments:

PAH said...

I am sorry to hear that it's such a frustrating process you are going through. Just think of this, good volunteers are like grunts or support personnel in the armed forces. Without them, things would grind to a halt. That is a fact that not many would admit openly but silently and begrudgingly accept.

Rachel said...

Thanks, PAH, for your sympathy! :)

Volunteers really shouldn't exist, though, I think. I was being sarcastic about the rest, but on that point, I'm serious.

If an organization needs me, then they should pay me a living wage. If they do not need me, then they shouldn't host me. I don't think there should be any in between.

All organizations are guilty of this, though. In this field, some people are lucky and fall into a job. Some aren't but still want to work, and so take volunteerships, because they think it's their only option.

Thank you very much for your comment, as always :o)

Meg said...

This sounds sadly familiar.

Good luck in your job hunt, and please keep writing for those of us reading around the world!

Rachel said...

Hi Meg :o) Thanks for the note, that's really sweet and I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Chin up. And don't settle. And don't acquire debt.

I got "the debt," and now it owns me. I wish I could be a volunteer again and build that valuable experience... but I have a mortgage.

So, really.. .sounds like you're in a good spot. Someday you'll wish you could volunteer again.

Rachel said...

Hahaha, thanks. I can't IMAGINE ever wanting to be a volunteer again but it is true that, even if I don't have a salary, I get to work and I get to live in a beautiful place...

:o)

ilario said...

Don't wait....don't wait that something will happen or "that eventually something will fall into place" or a late response from HR department. If you are a top worker and passionate about your job, don't give up: try different path, you will succeed in the end....for sure

Rachel said...

Thanks Ilario... :) You are right, too -- I need to be more proactive about looking for work... it's so difficult to look for work when you ARE working!!! It's like a full time job, applying to jobs.

thanks for the encouragement :)

Carly said...

Oh boy do I know how you feel!! And a step up from volunteers are the bright internationals who take local contracts just to get more experience. Most of the young people in my organisation (including myself) are on local contracts - it's not a bad wage but it's nowhere near what an int'l salary would be. The UN has figured out this is a great way to get good people cheap, and unfortunately we perpetuate it because it's so hard to get anything else!! And you're right, job applications are a full time job (that I'm soon going to have to start doing!!) Good luck Rachel!

Rachel said...

Carly, thanks!!!!! At least -- I am in good company. I know so many brilliant people who are struggling struggling struggling to find a salary.

It's still unfair and ridiculous, but... at least there's quite a few of us in this position together...

(That said, there are also people who do not do their work yet have high salaries... because they have "experience" on their resume... so HR thinks they should be given another chance, or something... because they have the "right" kind of "experience"... drives me CRAZY.)