I am sure there are times since when she wishes she had never ever seen it, but reading this fantastic post on her blog today I think, all things considered, she is glad she made the switch. She's now a VSO volunteer in Namibia.
Her blog is simply superb. Her writing is so consistently good it makes me swing between awe and jealousy.
And I agree 100% with her views:
"As to whether or not I believe in development work, that’s a tough question. I think the answer is yes, I do.
"Despite the fact that in some ways I have become very disillusioned with the whole idea of international development as it stands, I also think that it’s changing in really positive ways. From my own experience, I think that it’s easy for organisations and funders in the North to have an idealised view of how development should work, and it’s often difficult to see why sometimes things are so difficult on the ground.
"My opinion, more and more, is that you can’t simply go into a community, ask them what they need and then try and give it to them. It has to come from inside, to be done by the people it’s going to benefit, otherwise it’s never, ever going to work.
"Much grassroots development work, particularly in terms of funding, is so tied up in bureaucratic red tape and administrative nit-picking that sometimes the project changes out of all recognition, simply because the donors require it to be a certain way. This simply does not work. At the same time, perfectly viable projects find it hard to get funding because they don’t have certain components, or look the way people think they should look."
Incidentally I wrote to VSO yesterday. Rachie signed up after reading my blog and I met a few new volunteers in Hanoi who had found it themselves and used it as pre-departure briefing. There must be many people who read Rachie's blog and are thinking are taking the volunteer plunge.
All will be recruited for free without the expense of events or advertising.
In my letter to VSO I "bigged up blogging" but I am not holding out much hope. So far VSO reactions to blogging have been suspicious and very unenlightened. I would love to help change that .
For sharing best practice, for advice on dealing with the stresses and strains, for providing photos for publicity pictures, for keeping volunteers in the middle of nowhere from going insane, for ensuring the press receive a steady trickle of good news stories, I am sure that blogging can meet all these needs.
I'll let you know if I hear anything.
Update: On similar volunteering lines my Budget Travel Online piece for today is here.