Tuesday, 21 July 2009

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Volunteering: a minority perspective I've been having some online correspondence with a blind woman from a minority ethnic group, about being a volunteer. She makes some sharp points about the receptivity of traditional volunteering agencies, and has agreed for me to pass on these observations. When my friend lost her sight, she was invited to join the management committee of the local association for the blind. 'It did not take me long to find out that they wanted me on the committee but would not trust me with any interesting work. As I had to give up work I tried hard to get into various voluntary organisations offering my services for free just for the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. To cut a long story short, I have always had to prove myself, sell my services hard and push myself into some roles none would like. This pushing oneself hard, selling one’s skills and experience for an outcome of insults is not everyone's cup of tea. 'Charities begging for volunteers do not seem to realise that members of BME communities do not necessarily want to work with BME members. I have been told several times that they could not give me any volunteering roles because they did not have any BME demand, until I proved Caucasians were just as happy with my work. 'Agencies using volunteers as well as employers seem to think all similar looking people are the same. So, they club together all Africans, brown skinned people etc, no matter where they are from, thinking they would be happy working together. As one African friend of mine put it, these people calling themselves clever do not realise that someone from Somalia can be as different from someone from Nigeria as an Italian from an Englishman.'

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