*If* it does, how does local volunteering (ie. homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc.) harm my community? What are the inquiries I should ask the organization to investigate whether they are trustworthy or not? Should I rethink volunteering at a place if the reviews are bad? Should I volunteer for more understaffed places?
Why does it seem like nothing gets better, despite all of these charities, liberal-minded people, and such? How do I know what is and what isn’t apart of the system of exploitation?
thanks for the questions! Please let me start by stating that we are not very experienced with local volunteering but that we can see that it has a lot of benefits compared to International volunteering. For many of your questions, there is no one-size-fits-all answer but that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to find an answer to them. If you check the potential places to volunteer to have these issues in mind I’m sure you will be able to get a good impression yourself and to make a good choice.
I think the potential to do harm in a local context is way smaller than internationally. One of the biggest benefits of the volunteer here is that he or she knows about the community and the needs and there is no or only a small cultural barrier between the volunteers and the people he or she works with. But of course, there are also always situations that can cause harm, for example, if there are no sufficient background checks for volunteers who work with vulnerable communities and all lack of oversight and the misuse of the power of volunteers. Deciding who is benefiting from contributions and donations is always a tricky choice and often left to volunteers.
Of course, a bad review for a place is a good reason to reconsider volunteering there. However, I would strongly recommend taking a good look at the reviews. Many of those would probably be focused on the volunteer experience itself (if at all related to volunteering) and not so much on that contribution. Many jobs are just not very exciting but very essential to contribute to the community. one of the big questions of volunteering is always how much you are willing to do things that you do not want to do but are necessary to be done. that is why I think it’s also a good idea to take a closer look at places that I definitely understaffed.
Why it seems that many things don’t get better, in the end, is of cause a big philosophical question but it’s also related to the way how you look at things. in International Development all the indicators have shown that over the last 30 years and very significant progress has been made. but let’s face it – most social work is only focused on fixing an existing problem, providing first aid and that’s why it cannot be very sustainable. Of course, it would be much better not to wait that long people do need help at all then to wait until they are in a miserable situation and provide support. But that is a difficult thing to do and would require some significant changes all of us (higher taxes?) many people just don’t want to see this happening. But I am sure a quick Google research will be able to provide you much better answers to this question then we can do. 🙂