After eleven successful years, and hundreds of successful volunteer placements, the Burma Volunteer Program decided to hand over the recruitment and management of volunteers to interested local organizations on the Thailand-Burma border. This decision was taken for three reasons:
1. Recent research has shown that at least 50% of organizations receiving BVP volunteers were also recruiting their own volunteers independently.
2. With the changes occuring in Burma, the border is changing, and an increasing number of organizations are shifting into the country.
3. Adequate funding for the program was increasingly difficult to source.
In order to phase out the program responsibly and ensure an effective handover, BVP staff developed a plan to empower partner organizations to successfully recruit and manage volunteers. This incorporated capacity building workshps for interested partners and a Volunteer Management Manual to be developed distributed to all partner organizations.
In January and February 2013, the Program Manager delivered training workshoips in Sangkhlaburi, Nupo Refugee Camp, Mae La Refugee Camp, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sot. Our partners were walked through the entire process of writing job descriptions, advertizing/recruiting volunteers, choosing applicants that best match their needs, managing volunteers, and maintaining an on-going relationship afterwards.
Of the 58 partner organizations that were invited, more than half of those partners (32) (55%) attended the trainings and a total of 64 people participated. 2 members from each organization were invited to attend the trainings however this number varied on occasion. Many organizations that did not attend trainings at the above locations informed the BVP Program Manager that despite being grateful for the opportunity to attend the trainings, they already felt comfortable recruiting volunteers on their own.
BVP also encouraged current volunteers working with our partners to attend the training with members of their organization to provide them with extra support throughout this process. They will also help to recruit the next volunteer for their host organization
Despite BVP closing, there is still a need for volunteers to work with civil society organizations from Myanmar on the border region. Therefore the website of BVP (www.burmavolunteers.org) was adapted to suit the needs of our partners. When potential volunteers visit the website, they are now provided with details about BVP partner organizations and are able to contact them directly to inquire about volunteer opportunities. This particular change was a focus point of the Volunteer Management trainings. In total, 19 partner organizations opted to be featured on our website.
The BVP staff were touched by the many testimonials and gestures of thanks received from partner organizations during the handover process. While it is sad to see such a great program with a notable history in this context come to an end, we are confident that this was the right step in the circumstances, and delighted that the handover process will mean that the fantastic work of the volunteers and partner organizations will continue.