FSD-Jinja-Uganda’s ProCorps international volunteering program is a unique opportunity for professionals to apply their skills to address pressing global and local issues around the world. This is a hands-on, intense, immersive program that allows professionals to work alongside local grassroots leaders, using their skills and expertise to contribute to priority community projects while also gaining a new perspective and experiencing a new culture
WHO CAN BE A PROCORPS VOLUNTEER?
ProCorps Volunteers are professionals with five or more years of experience who have skills and expertise sought after by grassroots community organizations. There are opportunities for a broad range of disciplines and skills. Past ProCorps Volunteers have been corporate professionals, educators and public administrators, business owners, social workers, health professionals, nonprofit managers, and retirees to name a few. They are individuals with expertise in various areas who provide training, ideas, and support to local leaders committed to making positive changes in their community. Procorps volunteers have an option to apply for existing community based projects from either of the following categories: community based development projects or community based research projects.
WHAT DO PROCORPS VOLUNTEERS DO?
ProCorps Volunteers apply a wide range of skills that bring a knowledgeable, outside perspective to ongoing issues that the community faces. Although grassroots organizations have great knowledge and strengths related to their programs and community, they often have limited access to the specialized skills sets and perspectives that ProCorps volunteers can bring. FSD helps each volunteer find an opportunity where his or her skills could really add value. For example, volunteers with engineering backgrounds have worked on rainwater harvesting and solar power projects. Others have worked with entrepreneurs and nonprofits on business or marketing strategy to help improve the financial sustainability of their work. ProCorps Volunteers with experience as coaches or teachers have trained teachers to develop curriculum or designed culturally-relevant leadership development workshops. Another area ProCorps Volunteers contribute is in the strengthening of the organization overall, in areas like human resources, computer skills, accounting and Finance, or proposal writing.
ProCorps Volunteering provides an opportunity for professionals to work directly with a local grassroots organization and apply their specific skill-set to address a community need. The program can be as short as 2 weeks or as long as 1 year. The more time a participant is able to commit, the greater the impact can be. This program is unique in the high level of project customization for each participant based on their background and interests. Although FSD posts projects that community organizations have identified as priorities for volunteers, these project descriptions are the starting point for a customized experience., experienced volunteers often come with unique skills that bring new knowledge and build capacity of the organization in ways they did not imagine before, so the projects implemented by volunteers evolve to blend volunteer skills with organizational priorities.
Discussions and preparation for the experience starts well before the in-country program. When you apply to the program, you will identify those project opportunities that feel like the best fit with your skills and interests. FSD staff with in-depth knowledge of the community development organizations will then interview you to assess your best fit and may recommend to you other project opportunities that you had not previously considered. Once you have been accepted and placed, we will share advice on how to prepare to make the most of your time in country. After pick up at the local airport, the in-country program begins with a brief orientation led by the local FSD site team. This orientation covers theory (including an introduction to FSD’s asset-based community development model) and day-to-day details (such as safety and how to navigate the local transit system), and cultural integration.
ProCorps volunteers work closely with their host organization to apply their skills and immerse themselves in the community. Although we expect that ProCorps volunteers will be able to work with more independence than our younger participants, you will still have regular check-ins and support from our field team. The application of your skills in a new cultural context will require a different approach to align with local customs and norms. Therefore, it is essential that even seasoned professionals prioritize listening and learning from the community and local site team as a first step in building a successful project.
As with all FSD programs, the overall focus is always on community involvement, sustainability, and effectiveness. A crucial aspects of each project is ensuring it aligns with the local culture, values, and priorities, as well as skills transfer, meaning the volunteer provides organization and community members with the knowledge needed to make sure the new contributions will be sustained, lasting long after the volunteer returns home.
TIMELINE: ProCorps Volunteers can choose a program length of 2 weeks to one year. This means that each program is unique depending on the time one is able to commit. Those volunteering for 2-4 weeks must be prepared to “hit the ground running” after orientation to integrate into the community, listen to their priorities, and learn about the organization’s work. This way they can apply their skills as soon as possible in the most effective and culturally appropriate way. Those volunteering for an extended amount of time are able to devote more time to the various stages of their project and make adjustments along the way.
As with all FSD programs, participants should expect circumstances, priorities, and realities to be different from what they may have imagined. Development work requires flexibility and the ability to deal with uncertainty. The ability balance slowing down with quick and proactive thinking will be a huge strength.