Sunday, April 10, 2016

Give a year, gain a lifetime of love: 2015 International Volunteer Program recap

By Vicky Medley, International Volunteer Coordinator, NPH USA
2015 was my ninth year working with our International Volunteer Program!  I sure do love my job; I have the pleasure of helping with the selection, placement and support for the International Volunteers that come from the U.S.  For Volunteer Appreciation Week 2016, I want to provide you with a program update and some highlights.
Overall, 2015 was another successful year for our International Volunteer Program.  Each year we make some changes and adjustments.  In 2015:
  • We added more intercultural trainings to our preparation materials.  NPH is a complex web of cultures: the culture of the home country, the organizational culture, and the multinational, multilingual cultures that the volunteers bring from all corners of the globe to the volunteer community. With that in mind, all of our volunteers now complete the Impact Abroad Toolkit, an online course about effective intercultural partnerships.  Our volunteers also now participate in the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale to help identify strengths and areas of growth in intercultural settings.   
  • We increased our recruitment efforts.  Like most volunteer programs, over the last two years we’ve received fewer applications. To counteract that trend, we visited more campuses and increased our online profiles and materials on many college career centers.  We’re also experimenting with targeted recruitment for hard-to-fill positions like therapists and Communication Officers.
  • We now provide all volunteers’ international health insurance.  In the past we provided a subsidy, but we are now able to cover the entire cost. 

Our International Volunteers in action!
We currently have 29 volunteers serving alongside the local staff at NPH.  International Volunteers do not replace local staff, but they provide much-needed services that are difficult for us to ensure otherwise.  In 2015, we had a total of 58 volunteers who served at least six months, saving NPH an estimated $120,780. 
International volunteers serve for a year or more at all the NPH homes.  Some volunteers work in education as English and PE teachers, Preschool Teachers, Tutors, and Librarians.  Many volunteers work as Caregivers, or in special programs like Women’s Empowerment, Social Work or Youth Ministry.  We have several volunteers who provide physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.  Volunteers also work in administration, serving as volunteer coordinators, visitor coordinators, project coordinators, or in the child sponsorship department.  Our medical volunteers serve as nurses, doctors, nurse practitioners and clinic assistants.
As you read through the volunteer testimonials, you will see some themes emerge: 
NPH really is a giant family, and our volunteers are an essential part of that family, not only providing professional services, but accompanying the Pequeños during chores, homework, meals, mass, and playtime. 
Most volunteers feel that during their time with NPH they have received more than they have given, and are transformed by their service.  They learn about patience, sharing, love and new priorities that focus on relationships rather than tasks. 

International Volunteers’ continuing involvement with NPH
Even after their service has been over for a year or more, most volunteers stay involved with NPH.  In 2015, former volunteers came up with new and creative ways to raise money, and built support for NPH:  
  • In cities where there are regional offices, former International Volunteers help at fundraisers, translate, assist in the offices, speak at events, and meet with donors.
  • We have Associate Boards in cities throughout the country.  Many former volunteers participate in the Associate Boards, helping organize pub crawls, trivia nights, and other events that appeal to socially conscious young professionals.
  • In Seattle, many former volunteers are involved in NPH International’s Seattle Institute. This program helps develop a future generation of leaders for our NPH homes.  Their curriculum is based on principles of servant leadership and grounded in our NPH philosophy.  Former International volunteers serve as mentors, assist with retreats and events, and most importantly, serve as a comforting presence during the difficult adjustment period when the adult Pequeños first arrive in Seattle. 
  • Each fall, a cadre of volunteers helps us with college recruitment.   In 2015, six former volunteers visited college volunteer recruitment events. 
How can you support our International Volunteer Program?
  • Help us spread the word about volunteering with NPH!  Share our information with your alumni network, your professional associations, on social media, or your place of worship. 
  • If you are visiting an NPH home, pack a few treats for our volunteers!  They love surprises from home, especially holiday treats (like candy corn, inexpensive advent calendars, Easter candy, etc.), and treats that are hard to find in Latin America. 
  • Ask volunteers about their time at NPH, and really listen to what they have to say.  You will learn all sorts of things about NPH.
If you’ve met any of our former volunteers, you know that they are deeply dedicated to the NPH family, and they are a creative, passionate, hard-working and humble group.  May we be blessed with their presence for many years to come!

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