I recently met with Amy Pettipher from Generation, a new venture founded by Vanilla in partnership with MondoChallenge Foundation. Careers staff and students may know Vanilla because one of their other ventures, Charityworks, provides a graduate training programme for the non-profit sector.
I asked Amy if ‘Generation’ was the international version of Charityworks? “No”, she told me. “But we have drawn on our experience of working with young people who are passionate about social change to develop the programme.”
Generation offers 3 month placements for volunteers to work in schools in India and Nepal, and what makes it distinct from other volunteer programmes is our excellent pre-placement training, in-country support and post-placement career coaching.
This is the pilot year for the programme, and Amy and the team are looking for a small group of individuals to take part in Generation’s first year and help shape the programme for future volunteers. This exciting pilot provides an opportunity for volunteers to apply their skills and knowledge, working with schools and communities to achieve locally owned goals that will benefit generations to come.
The programme’s focus initially is going to be on a cluster of schools in the Northeast Indian Himalayas. Although this is the first time Generation has worked with the schools in India, all the schools have a long history of working with volunteers, and Amy herself volunteered at one of the schools in 2010.
Generation volunteers will teach English classes, but there is lots of scope to contribute to other subjects as all the schools are English speaking. “In addition,” Amy told me, “volunteers will have the opportunity to work on community development projects - this could be anything from working with school staff to develop systems for evaluating individual students’ progress throughout the year, to facilitating the planning and setting up of a food cooperative that will generate revenue for the schools and communities (one or two of the schools have some agricultural land and are keen to run similar projects). Projects and activities will depend on the ambitions and needs of the schools, and we want to emphasise that the volunteer’s role is to facilitate and stimulate ideas in collaboration with the schools, rather than to develop or change existing practices for the sake of it.”
I asked Amy to address the concern about relatively unqualified people from the UK going to work in developing world classrooms. “We do stress that our cohort members – and we expect to send up to 10 in the pilot group – are not teachers, they are volunteers supporting the work of the teaching staff and providing the students with a fresh perspective on their studies. All volunteers will be at least graduate level and as such will have very definite things to offer beyond just energy and enthusiasm. There is a real shortage of staff in some of the schools and the schools who host volunteers do so because they see the difference volunteers can make - not just while they are there but on a continuing basis by making sure the projects they initiate can be continued by staff and students.“
I asked Amy about other key features of the programme. “Generation is founded on the expertise of Vanilla and our partner charity, MondoChallenge Foundation: we are working in partnership with the Foundation, who understand and are connected to communities in Northeast India and Nepal. Our combined expertise of international development and the UK charity sector mean we are perfectly positioned to help volunteers take part in a successful and enriching cultural exchange, as well as plan careers in the charity sector. Part of the fee entitles volunteers to benefit from Vanilla’s career coaching expertise which includes a comprehensive debrief of the volunteer placement and a CV assessment. It’s one of the ways we think we can provide great results not just for the local communities but for our volunteers as well, and we’re really keen to hear from anyone who may be considering volunteering this year.“
Volunteers pay £1,100 for a 3 month placement – this includes accommodation, a two day pre-placement training course, in-country support and post placement careers coaching, as well as a donation to the MondoChallenge Foundation. The first cohort is due to leave in September 2013 though there is some flexibility around dates.
Find out more by visiting : http://www.vanillaventures.co.uk/generation/
Generation is also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GenerationInternationalVolunteering