Blog post written by Camilla Novara from ASPEm, Global Citizenship Education and Mobility and Volunteering areas
Our organization ASPEm has always been committed to promoting volunteering. We recognize volunteering as a space for responsible participation, therefore we promote national and international volunteering experiences to youth from Italy and the EU. We also support organizations in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia to improve their capacity to manage sending and hosting volunteering initiatives and we have agreements in place with schools and universities to host young students to gain practical experience in the fields of Global Citizenship Education and Development.
We believe that there is always room for change and innovation and so, even in the field of volunteering, we have decided to start new types of participation experiences by promoting online volunteering. This choice was possible thanks to an important staff work and also thanks to our participation as a partner in the VIVID: T project, that aims to provide technical assistance in the humanitarian response, to promote valuable international volunteering and to include people with disabilities in every project and association area.
We thus involved a volunteer with disabilities in a Capacity Building project financed by EACEA and carried out with 17 partners from 3 different continents with the aim of empowering send and host organizations to manage volunteers and mapping national best practices and online resources for volunteer management; our volunteer participated in the realization of this research.
Online volunteering represented a challenge for us: this type of participation in fact requires effective digital tools, new strategies to monitoring of activities and to creating an inclusive, participatory and collaborative group of work in which the volunteer feels part.
To overcome these challenges and above all to ensure a high level of digitization – necessary to encourage the active participation of online volunteers – it is essential that every project and each financier provide for targeted economic resources; the experience of Eilidh Rose McEwan, our deaf online volunteer, confirms this need: “I found some benefit from auto-captions during the online meetings, however these are often inaccurate; because of this inaccuracy, using auto-captions can sometimes create further confusion, distort the meaning and be of little help for deaf and hard of hearing volunteers. I advocate for a central budget for fully accessible communication support such as Speech to Text Reporters and BSL interpreters which would allow more deaf and hard of hearing people to participate both in online volunteering and in overseas volunteering”.
The main advantages of online volunteering relate precisely to the breadth of people who can be involved in these paths: in addition to people with disabilities and with reduced access to volunteering in the field, online volunteering also allows you to involve those who already have a job because it guarantees a flexible participation.
Following our first experience, we will certainly continue to promote online volunteering as a form of active participation and inclusion of people with disabilities by improving the tools and working methods and urging partners and financiers to believe in the creation of paths of this type.
ASPEm, Solidarity Association of Emerging Countries, is an NGO of International Cooperation born in Cantù in 1979 after a few years of missionary presence in Burundi. He works on issues related to interculture, rights, health, agriculture and economic development in Latin America, Africa and Italy with projects for development cooperation, youth mobility, training and awareness.
Visit ASPEm website