Communication: Is the key?

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After a beautiful conversation with a volunteer (that will of course remain anonymous), our coordinator reflects about the impact of communications in the volunteer experience, and how important it is to create support and healing spaces.

 

A few weeks ago I met with a volunteer, N, to talk about some tensions he was feeling in the project he’s working on. The cultural shock, the language barrier, the discomfort of sometimes not knowing how to relate with the work team, the confusion that may cause us to question the place we occupy as volunteers, the anxiety of not being sure about the things we are supposed to do or about our impact in the project, and the worry of not knowing whether we are reproducing power relationships or not… all of these are feelings and thoughts that may be overwhelming and can turn our volunteer experience in something challenging and sometimes even hostile.

N was navigating all of these emotions on his own, in a tangle hard to unravel in solitude, and took him some weeks to talk to me and tell me what he was going through. Our communication as a volunteer and a coordinator was difficult at the beginning hence it was a joy for me when he told me what was going on and accepted my invitation to meet in person.

Far from being only a space to listen and offer emotional support, our conversation allowed us to reflect on different topics influencing his experience: multiculturalism, language (and how it manifests), colonialism still in effect in our society, and the impact it has on our day to day and how it reproduces power relationships, mental health, hetero-norm and patriarchy, education and learning processes… and how all of these are deeply related to volunteering as an intercultural education experience.

It was an emotional and moving meeting through which we deconstructed the discomfort he was feeling and transformed it into a creative impulse. With our will to recognize each other through dialogue, comprehension, and empathy, we created a space for intimacy and healing.

Lots of questions are still in the air after this conversation, exciting and challenging questions that the experience itself and meetings like the one we had with N allow us to answer and deepen. To this day, at Voluntario Global, along with many other transformations we are going through, we are reflecting on the coordination role and the impact it has not only on the volunteer’s experiences but on our work as an organization.

I’m deeply thankful to N for his trust in me and how he opened up. I still have a lot to learn, but now more than ever I’m sure communication is the key.

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