Key insights from international development experiences
By sharing stories, mistakes, and lessons learned in this collection of short stories, the book guides readers to reflect on their own work and how their own practice might improve. Each individual and experience is unique, and no blueprints are offered. Providing stories and concepts for reflection instead allows readers to consider how particular ideas relate to their own contexts and then to determine how to proceed. This process is crucial to the development of an effective volunteer, and this book provides practical support.
This book is essential reading for gap year students, volunteers, and early career professionals embarking on work in grassroots international development projects.
‘Incisive, insightful and honest. If you have the ambition to change the world, or your neighbourhood, this isn't the book you want to read; it's the book you need to read. In my two decades of working to change systems, the authors of this book come closest to a "how to" guide -- radical openness, deep reflection and powerful questions to reflect on constantly.’
George Roter, former CEO and co-founder of Engineers Without Borders, Canada
‘McNicholls has surfaced reflections from authors we learn with, not just learn from. Their voices shine a light on usually hidden, and hard, lessons from volunteering – they will resonate. Prepare to laugh, cry, wince, think and reflect… and then to be able to make change better.’
Andrew Lamb, Innovation Advisor, Field Ready
‘This outstanding book asks the right questions, and is willing to explore hard answers that can lead to mutual respect and growth. It is a must read for the 21st century volunteer who wants to be more than the classical do-gooder.’
James Orbinski MD, former international president of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Co-Founder of Dignitas International, and Professor in Global Health, Balsille School of International Affairs, Waterloo Canada
‘An important book for anyone thinking about volunteering to work in another culture, and for those who are already there. It is about balancing help with humility, guarding against hubris, understanding the difference between ambition and responsibility and -- for people in a hurry -- getting to grips with the reality of time.’
Ian Smillie, author of Freedom From Want and Diamonds, former CUSO volunteer in Sierra Leone
‘Packed with insights gained from working in the field, Volunteer Voices both informs and inspires. The book’s multiple contributors, through stories and personal reflection, provide advice that is at once practical and wise. This book is a must-read for anyone in the field of development and social change.’
Jaideep Prabhu is Professor of Business and Enterprise at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
‘Duncan McNicholl’s collection of volunteers' experiences is an important examination of the complexities of what it means for outsiders to “help” marginalized people and communities. Social and systemic injustice has deep roots, and solutions don’t magically appear with the introduction of a new volunteer, idea, or resources, nor do they happen overnight. Volunteer Voices offers vital reflections for do-gooders to expand our hearts and minds as we find the courage to ask sometimes perplexing, frustrating, uncomfortable -- but always liberating -- questions of ourselves.’
Jennifer Lentfer, creator of how-matters.org and Director of Communications at Thousand Currents
Duncan McNicholl Duncan McNicholl has five years’ experience working internationally on rural water and sanitation, and agricultural value chains projects. He has worked with dozens of young volunteers abroad, and collaborated with colleagues across Africa during his time in Malawi as a Program Manager with Engineers Without Borders Canada.