“The lion cannot exist without the ant,” explains Rose Woller, Bulembu’s Manager of Short-Term Volunteers and Teams. “Here in Bulembu volunteers are important to the coexistent way that the organization functions. For the big things to happen at the top we need the little things to happen at the bottom.”
Up until recently Bulembu’s volunteer program has been an informal process. People from around the world have become familiar with the work in Bulembu, wanted to be involved and after a screening process have been slotted into the community to meet a certain need or for a certain experience for however long suited them personally. But now, with the organization growing rapidly the volunteer program is undergoing some major changes to give the program more structure and the volunteers more stability.
“While we are still in the planning phases of this, the idea is to create three separate categories that a volunteer can fall into,” Rose explains. “Where there used to simply be ‘volunteers’ the plan is to have tourists, voluntourists and staff members.”
First, tourists are visitors to Bulembu who stay for more than one day and who’s primary purpose is to stay at the Lodge and see the sights of Bulembu. Second, voluntourists are people who are visitors to Bulembu and stay for between one week and three months. They volunteer to assist in any area or within a specific role in Bulembu. Voluntourists have a structured, scheduled experience by which they engage with the community, are built into spiritually by those around them, and help lift the burden of serving in what ever way is needed at the time. And third, volunteers who stay for longer than a year are now considered staff. They are volunteers still because they are unpaid but they are staff in regards to the team they are a part of, the specific need they fill and the commitment to and from the organization that they have.
“The process of adjusting the volunteer structure has been good as it has been necessary,” says Dennis Neville, Bulembu’s Director of Education and Training. “We want to take care of the volunteers and show how much we value and appreciate them. Refining this system is a part of showing them that.”