According to a recent report by the South Africa-based Human Sciences Research Council, volunteers who travel to the developing world may do more harm than good. It suggested that volunteers risked undermining local workers and argued that because volunteers stayed a short time, they often ended up doing low-skilled work that would otherwise keep local people occupied.
With the example of the Quest Overseas Kenya WaterRelief project, it is easy to make the opposite case. This summer 15 Quest volunteers travelled to the Mtito Andei, in the Makueni district of Kenya to work alongside Excellent Development, winners of the 2009 Third Sector Excellence Awards, and local community volunteers. The team spent five weeks mixing cement, shovelling sand, carrying water, and passing rocks, in order to build two large sand dams. Sand dams are built across dry stream beds in order to force water underground when it rains. Over time, water deposits sand behind the dams, which in turn stores a large amount of water and prevents it from evaporating, it can then be used for crop-planting and drinking. The rains have now arrived in Malaika, and as you can see from the pictures, the dams are already doing their job!
The building of the sand dams requires a huge amount of labour and man?power, the majority of which is provided by men, women and children from the local villages who are prepared to donate their time and effort for free because they can see the long term benefit of the new dams and nurseries. However, the women also have to cook and clean for their families and the children should be in school. This is where Quest volunteers are needed to lend a hand. The work that they do is NOT taking employment away from the local people, but IS enabling the dams to be built a whole lot faster.
Moreover, the money that Quest volunteers donate is what pays for the whole project: without their generosity, it would simply not be possible. The arrival of a team in a Kenyan village not only brings about curiosity from the local children but also benefits the local economy, as the team buys their food locally.
Quest Overseas work hard to make sure that their projects are benefitting the local community and we do our absolute utmost to make sure every aspect of our operation is sustainable, ethical and responsible. To read more, you can click here.