As an organization, we believe it's important to generate experiences where the volunteer is part of the project, the organization, and the vision we share. This fact becomes challenging in the virtual world and has its limits. New modes are enabled to achieve this, but also many obstacles appear such as distance, connectivity, and time difference. Anyway, we have managed to generate a dynamic that works once we accept the experience for what it is: a different kind of volunteering.
For the past few months, Geoffrey has been volunteering to teach English and has expressed these aspects really well: "I have been able to work with and teach students from an entirely different country all from the comfort of my own home. Even if there are limitations to it, the alternative being to not teach or work with them at all makes the online aspect fantastic. As with anything, there are benefits and there are limitations, but I would certainly argue that the world is better off with online volunteering as an option than without it.
In this way, volunteering abroad is not relegated to gap years or vacations, but can coexist with the routine of volunteers from their country.
One of the main questions we had at the beginning was if virtual volunteering would really be useful or if it would be another stress factor for organizations in such a difficult context. Fortunately, we decided to give it a try and the experience was a rewarding one.
After so many months of social isolation, virtual classes - like all virtuality itself - become a bit tedious. However, the presence of volunteers from other countries makes the experience of the classes more interesting. Besides the benefit of having a native speaker teacher, virtual volunteer allows the teachers to have more attention from the students, a fact that is really difficult many times in this context. And, also, they relieve the teaching load by having to spend so many hours explaining and correcting for the various classes.
On the other hand, connectivity is not a minor factor, the pandemic has pointed out the great gap in internet access and the need to end it. Volunteers also provide a donation that organizations can use to pay for the internet connectivity of some students.
In this way, virtual volunteering opens a door to a new experience, one that we may have to accept as it is. Virtual volunteering cannot replace in-person volunteering, we believe that the richness of immersion is difficult to replace. However, virtual volunteering has other facilities, it is more adaptable and accessible.
It is important to be open to new ways of living, new ways of doing things, and of course, to the constant debate on these issues. We have to look ahead and continue building towards a more just world. If virtual volunteering helps us do that, why not accept it?