The host organization has some specific responsibilities in carrying out an international volunteer project - just like any other party involved. Whether we are talking about the preparation period for the start of the volunteer internship, or during and after its completion, there are some things that are good to keep in mind at all times.
In the following, we will present the specific elements of each stage.
1. Before the internship begins - when you know the specific activities of the internship and you are getting ready to recruit volunteers.
- Outline the volunteer profile you are looking for, paying attention to the fact that the candidate's motivation, interest and desire to learn is essential, not the experience in the specific field of the project proposed by the host organization.
- Based on this profile, develop a recruitment call, which includes: project name, period, exact location, activity description, main responsibilities, benefits (learning and materials - accommodation, insurance etc. - provided by the organization or the program) , the profile of the sought volunteer, contact details, deadlines for sending CV and/or cover letter etc.
- Promotes the call on relevant channels: social media, and e-mails to partner organizations, if any, on the specific platform of the program (as is the case with the European Solidarity Corps Program).
- Collect applications and evaluate them according to your selection criteria.
- Organize online interviews with those who match the profile you are looking for. Use an interview guide to keep the same structure for each candidate.
- Select the volunteer(s).
- Communicate results, including to those not selected. Constructive feedback from you helps them improve their candidacy.
- Contact the sending organization of the volunteer and prepare the following steps: signing the contracts, initial training carried out by the sending organization, etc.
- Stay in touch with selected volunteers: send them the info kit, offer them support in identifying ideal transportation options and, if necessary, obtaining a visa etc.
All the while, there is a process going on at the same time in the host organization: preparing for the reception of volunteers and starting the project. Although specific to each organization, we can still nuance some general aspects:
- elaboration of the working procedure with international volunteers, both in the coordinator-volunteers relationship and other staff-volunteer members
- elaboration/adaptation of internal procedures: Rules of Procedure at the office and/or in the accommodation of volunteers, available in English
- elaboration of the training and orientation plan for the volunteers regarding the specifics of the organization, including training elements on their actual activity and team-building
- creation of a general weekly/monthly plan, which should include routine elements, such as: work meetings/planning/evaluation between coordinator and volunteers, informal meetings, schedule with Romanian language classes etc.
2. During the internship - when every day looks different 😊
Whether we are talking about short-term or long-term international volunteering, it is essential to build a trusting relationship between volunteers and coordinators, as unforeseen situations arise that are easier to manage in a good working relationship.
- Welcome the volunteers: you or their mentor can wait for them at the train station/bus station/airport.
- Depending on the length of the internship, allow a few days/weeks for accommodation: obtaining a residence permit, a bank account with a bank in the country, facilitating orientation activities, team-building, specific training on tasks, language classes, etc.
- Creates space for reflection and learning processing: weekly (or constant) reflection meetings support volunteers in identifying lessons learned, solutions to challenges and strengthening the group they belong to. Your role is to be a facilitator, not a problem solver. Guide them, support them, but do not promise/offer them solutions.
- Encourage them to contact their mentors and make the relationship fruitful. At the same time, keep in touch with mentors, motivate them through: free discussion sessions, informal meetings, workshops/learning skills/development necessary in the mentoring process.
- Give them support on activities and make them responsible step by step, according to their individual needs.
- Give them space to practice, try, even make mistakes, and encourage them to try again.
- Be adaptable, transparent, fair. - Easy to say, right?
- Keep in touch with the sending organization. Give him feedback/ask for support when needed.
- Encourage the volunteer to keep in touch with their sending organization.
3. After completing the volunteer internship, you can still support the volunteer in their development process.
- Ask them to find out what volunteer opportunities the area where they live/referral organization offers.
- Encourage them to attend final evaluation meetings facilitated by their sending organization or other actors involved in the program (ANPCDEFP in the country of origin in the case of the European Solidarity Corps). These meetings will support him in completing the learning cycle, in concluding the international volunteer loop.
- At his request and if you think it is correct, offer him a letter of recommendation to use in his application for a job/university etc.