And to bust your hopes right from the beginning:
Just as you cannot ensure that you are going to like your blind date, you can’t ensure either that all your expectations about your hosting organisation are going to be met.
The only thing you have influence on are your expectations. And you have to examine them closely.
Here is a list of questions you can ask yourself:
- Where do your expectations come from?
- What do you really and truly know about the country, the place and the organisation or project you are going to?
- Where does that knowledge come from? (Did you talk to someone from there? Or to someone who has been there before? Or did you just read some books or articles about it?)
- What do you think you will be doing there?
- Where do these details come from?
- Some people, organisations or websites you encounter, you like and trust immediately, right? And others you don’t. Why is that?
- You may trust your sending organisation from your home country. But when it comes to an African one, you are not a hundred percent sure… What are these feelings and impressions based on?
Sometimes websites cannot be updated as regularly. Also email communication can be hard due to technical circumstances. That doesn’t mean that the organisation is not reliable.
It is not upon the volunteer to judge, especially not before she or he is in the hosting country.
Of course there are some signs that show professionalism:
- regular communication, be it via phone, email or social media (Language is another barrier though, especially when it’s online and not mother tongue.)
- a physical and/ or postal address (If it’s a rural project, however, office space – and therefore an address – isn’t even necessary.)
- If you can, talk to others who worked with them. (However, make sure to ask all questions directly to the organisation first.)
- as many details as possible. (If the organisation can tell you more about accommodation, specifications for the project you will be posted in, whether and when and how you will be picked from the airport, how you will get to your project, payment and so on, they have a routine in that.)
If you want a truthful, impactful and reliable hosting organisation, you need to examine yourself first and ask yourself, where this need and these requirements come from. Also examine your (mis)trust and generally be open and have as much trust as you can possibly give.
And then remember that we are all humans and we can all fail. That doesn’t have to do with our background or our culture, but with our humanness.