When searching for a sustainable volunteer program, it is important to consider the footprints that the organization leaves behind. Outreach360 believes education is the best sustainable solution to combat poverty in Latin America and provide the children we serve with long-term opportunities to transform their own lives; however, we recognize that is more easily said than done. In order to ensure that our organization is sustainable in the communities we serve in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, we take measured steps towards educating groups of students who might one day take over our program, allowing us to pass on our teacher torches. Poco a poco.
Outreach360 recognizes that finding an ideal volunteer program that values sustainability can be difficult. So we decided to make it easy for you. Here are 7 reasons why volunteering with Outreach360 is sustainable:
1. We offer services and de-emphasize materialism.
There is a subtle difference between serving and helping, one that can easily be misinterpreted. Outreach360 is in Latin America to serve, not to help. Our volunteers are directly instructed not to give away money, food, or drink to students or community members in Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. Outreach360 believes that education is the best sustainable form of service. With education, our students will be able to sustain themselves without help. These are not poor, sick, helpless people. Outreach360 volunteers share their strengths and blessings with community members, and they share their blessings with volunteers. It’s a two-way street.
2. We let the good times grow.
At our two properties in Nicaragua, Outreach360 will be implementing projects involving sustainable agriculture. The agriculture program will provide an opportunity for our students to serve and learn. Students will have the opportunity to learn about agriculture by growing foods like bananas, avocados, and mangos. Outreach360 students can use this knowledge to plant their own gardens at home, providing their families with home-grown food and resources. The food production in our Agriculture & Sustainability Program will provide food to the Outreach360 volunteer program, to the on-site student program, and may be used to generate income for the local program.
3. We buy locally.
Outreach360 embraces a farm-to-table philosophy. The food and produce that Outreach360 purchases for staff and volunteer consumption are purchased in community markets and stores where local farmers sell their food. Additional products that we buy (volunteer bunk beds, furniture, cooking supplies, etc.) are also bought locally. In addition, Outreach360 encourages staff and volunteers to support local businesses while staying in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
4. We hire locally.
The Outreach360 permanent teaching staff in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic is made up entirely of local community professionals. This is also representative of the kitchen staff at both locations. Outreach360 employs community members for facility maintenance and repairs as well. Former volunteers will affectionately recognize the Nicaraguan policemen that voluntarily escort them up Peña de La Cruz, a mountain located in Jinotega, Nicaragua that volunteers’ hike while staying with Outreach360. Whereas former Dominican Republic volunteers will recognize the local drivers that Outreach360 continuously hires for transportation.
5. We value direct service, not voluntourism.
“It’s not about you.” The countries in which Outreach360 serves are beautiful and worth exploring; however, it is of the utmost importance to Outreach360 that volunteers understand that their time abroad is used to serve. In order to create a sustainable program in which students can become Outreach360 teachers, volunteers participate in direct service, not voluntourism. The impact that Outreach360 volunteers leave on students will pave the way for more knowledge and growth in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
6. We support local cooperatives and industries.
Outreach360 collaborates and works with local co-operatives and industries to support local commerce and culture. Outreach360 brings volunteers to experience local co-operatives and a variety of other local industries. For example, Dominican Republic volunteers tour salt flats and have the opportunity to purchase salt farmed on the island. In Nicaragua, volunteers visit a black pottery co-operative where they learn about the process of making black pottery and get the chance to mold something of their own.
7. We want to pass on our teacher torches.
Outreach360 Adelante Volunteers are returning students that have graduated from the Outreach360 English language learning program. Adelante Volunteers venture back to Outreach360 to teach new students. These individuals serve Outreach360 by creating a sustainable program where students become the teachers. In the near future, Outreach360 will be giving Adelante Volunteers and native teachers the reigns of our program, which will, in turn, allow Outreach360 to branch out to other countries in Latin America.