• Violence Prevention Alliance

Volunteerism Can Turn Around Lives, Says Paul Sully


Paul Sully, former country director of the US Peace Corp said that volunteerism can be impactful but requires training to get the best results especially if it involves cross culture volunteerism.


“When you are going to volunteer, you need training. Good intentions are not enough for you to get there. You need a conversation about expectations and what you can do to get you there,” he pointed out.


Mr Sully made the recommendations while addressing the Violence Prevention Alliance Steering Committee meeting in February.


“There has to be training to be a volunteer as well as to receive a volunteer,” he pointed out.

He also underscored the value of mentorship as part of the volunteering process where not only the mature person mentors but also the young person also pass on valuable experience to the mentee or older person.


The former director of the US Peace Corp noted that while volunteerism is at a cost more is achieved through volunteerism especially if programmes are designed to capitalize on the willingness of persons choosing to get involved in an activity.


“When you monetized, you remove some essential part of autonym. The idea of ‘I chose to be there’ for me plays into the violence prevention aspect because (when you volunteer), I’m not pressuring you to be there, you have chosen to be there and that changes the equation and to me in a dramatic way. I have seen elements of this working positively with high risks youths where (they turned their life around),” he said.


He gave an example of situation where he was tasked to plan a youth conference while he was stationed in Kenya. He utilized the open space technology where the youths get to decide how to express and organize themselves. He said 16 youth leaders were selected in the different communities and were trained prior to the conference. They were each assigned a mentor and encouraged to come up with projects that would improve their communities.

The outcome was positive as the young people came up with projects that ranged from social enterprises, educational programmes to environment and community development programmes. They were also encouraged to get 10 other persons in their communities involved.


They were asked to showcase their projects at the conference. In the end, the conference and exercise were a success and was a well received and executed.


“The conference surrounded volunteerism as these young persons chose to be there. This was their idea and what they wanted to do in their communities,” he said.

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