Emily, Honours Political Science, WUSC, Organization of African Youth, Kenya, Communications Officer
E-volunteering is still a relatively new term, and for the first time, it is not a rarely offered alternative but the primary source of volunteers all around the world. The COVID-19 Pandemic has been longer-lasting than many predicted or hoped it would be, and it is having increasingly long-term effects on how the world is run. Earlier in 2020, when everything suddenly switched to online, the world adapted as best we could at short notice. More recently, as we approached school years, holidays, and even potentially the new year aware of COVID, we were more prepared for COVID restrictions. In most places, we have come to recognize that these adjustments are not as temporary as we hoped and that we need to find ways to keep things running safely. That is where, I feel, the growth of e-volunteering comes in. I think that initially, e-volunteering was a short-term alternative until people could travel again, but now as that seems further and further away, e-volunteering is becoming more of an option in its own right and not a temporary solution. While there are obvious downsides to this, e-volunteering is a more accessible option for many people, especially now that it is more supported and recognized.
I am currently an e-volunteer for the Organization of African Youth (OAY) Kenya through World University Service of Canada (WUSC). I am working as a Communication Officer for the entirety of the Fall 2020 semester. I think that my role would have been a lot different in person, but under the circumstances, I think it might be even more important. As a field, communications can mean a lot of different things, but for me, the focus of my work has been on reaching people and bringing them together online and through social media. With the threat of greater restrictions due to increasing cases in many places, online is one of the only ways for organizations like OAY to spread information. I think that without COVID, my role online would be much smaller, only really reporting on events or announcing them. But with the pandemic, the information and the events that I would be posting about are all online, making my role in them bigger. So although many people thought of e-volunteering as a backup plan until in-person volunteering was an option, I believe that e-volunteering has made it possible for me to do more as an intern. Communications as a job description has had to incorporate even more, and now, I get to try a little bit of everything. In my experiences so far, I have been able to maintain social media accounts, create content, share event and program information, participate in webinars and online functions, and even help develop a cross-country activity for youths.
As I near the end of my internship experience, I think that I am only just beginning to appreciate the unique nature of international e-volunteering. Online internship positions offer a lot of benefits in their own right. Between decreased cost, greater reach, and more interconnectedness of roles, e-volunteering is a more accessible way for students to experience international internships. I hope that Universities, NGOs and other organizations consider continuing to offer e-volunteering options even once there is the potential for frequent international travel again.