International volunteers are diverse.
The communities and organisations these volunteers serve are diverse.
However the Australian government, through AusAID, has recently ended its Volunteer Fund, the only instrument to encourage diverse approaches to volunteering for development.
The reason for this decision, was a desire to market Australian aid volunteers with a single brand, AVID, so that the Australian government would receive goodwill.
The decision had nothing to do with effectiveness, with volunteers under the agencies supported by the PVF at least as effective as those under AVID.
It had nothing to do with cost, with Palms Australia volunteers costing less than half as much as AVID volunteers.
It had nothing to do with what our aid partners want, with many preferring to work in the relationships they have built with small organisations which share their philosophy or approach to development.
It has nothing to do with what volunteers want, as like partners they have diverse needs not realised by a single monolithic program.
It doesn’t even achieve the goal of increased goodwill towards Australian aid in the way that recognising the diversity of partners and the flexibility of smaller agencies would.
For a lower cost AusAID could re-instate the volunteer fund and demonstrate that its priority is aid which delivers the best bang for Australian taxpayers’ bucks.
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