Expectations, a big ally and a tricky enemy

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Abi, our coordinator, reflects on the learning process of volunteer work, and the expectations and disappointments which come along with it.

“Have you asked yourself what do you expect to learn from this experience?” This question is, from my perspective, one of the most important I ask during our Introductory Talk with new volunteers. Not only because it gives me a glimpse of what they are looking for through their volunteering, but because it gives me a hint to start discovering the best way to accompany their journey across the whole experience of working with Voluntario Global.


During this part of the first meeting we have when a volunteer arrives, I like to say that sometimes we haven't thought about specific expectations, and that's ok! It’s a fresh way to discover something new, but I also try to remind them that it’s important to be true to ourselves and what we feel about the things we find along with the experience, and to communicate them. And this has happened a lot with some volunteers. Many of them don't arrive with specific expectations for their time here, yet at some point they encounter disappointment. As a coordinator, part of my job is to accompany this disappointment and reflect about it with them, as it’s a perfectly valid response to the experience of volunteering in a place we’ve never been before, with people we just met, and having to commit to it from day one with the same obligation than everybody else. 


So sometimes I’ve come to ask myself, where does this disappointment come from? what’s the best way to deal with this from my position? 


Discussing these issues with my teammates we deployed the idea of Tension. The tension we feel when we experience something new and unknown. The tension of integrating in a new place, speaking different languages, within a whole different culture, can lead to frustration and makes us feel really uncomfortable. So in this context, it's easy to encounter disappointment. But from our perspective, we like to talk about Creative Tension. As we see volunteering as a critical learning process, these tensions that will surely appear while volunteering, can become a source of learning if we put them in words and talk to others about them. We deeply need to reflect on them with our peers, because as Jesica said to me: tension is essential for transformative changes.


We constantly try to convey the importance of dialogue between us, and volunteers are a vital part of this equation. And from this perspective, we encourage you to turn your expectations into Creative Tensions. To open up to the experience knowing that new things will develop if you keep your mind open and count on us to accompany you through it. These discussions allow us to incorporate new possibilities and points of views to our work, and can become a source of inspiration and ideas for us, volunteers, and people at the projects.


So trust your discomfort. Together we can make the best of it.

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