At September’s executive committee meeting, an important decision about VAP’s volunteer exchanges was made: we will no longer be treating “standard” volunteer programmes (in Europe, North America and other so-called “developed” areas) differently from what we used to call “North-South” programmes (in “developing” countries). All projects will now be presented in the same category.
This is a significant step for a whole host of reasons. For one thing, it addresses a long-standing inaccuracy in terminology that can simply cause confusion – it clearly isn’t even the case that all developed countries are in the “North” while all developing countries, still recovering from centuries of colonisation and exploitation, are in the “South”. But more importantly, the change shows that we at VAP want to move away from the idea that our projects should be divided in such a binary way between “poor” and “rich” locations at all. Of course, we are well aware that it is a fact that the situation in terms of poverty, health, education and oppression is better in some parts of the world than others. However, the committee’s discussion on this topic concluded that, as there is progress to be made all over the planet, it is better to consider these issues as being on an equal footing, rather than to perpetuate the assumption that the “North” and “South” are fundamentally different.
The other exciting effect of this decision is that volunteers placed on all projects will now be able to take part in the training that VAP offers. This opportunity was initially only available to North-South volunteers and those placed on longer-term projects. Extending training to all volunteers is another demonstration of the fact that it is just as important to prepare for a volunteer project in Iceland or Spain as it is to prepare for one in Kenya or Peru.
So there you have it: VAP has made a crucial, progressive change in its attitude towards categorising its global volunteer work. Let us know what you think about this decision on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Volunteer-Action-for-Peace/193838147321030?fref=ts
In any case, this certainly shows that committee meetings don’t have to just be about boring facts and figures!