Volunteering goes virtual

 | January 2, 2012

With just their skills, the Internet and a few hours a week, the Educator Volunteer Network is transforming the face of international education and volunteerism, proving that you don’t have to leave home to make a difference.

The organization, created by the Canadian International Learning Foundation, is an online community where volunteers provide one-on-one assistance, online training, and resources to teachers in some of the world’s poorest and war ravaged regions. Launched in September 2011, the network’s volunteers currently provide mentorship to educators in Uganda, Nepal, Afghanistan, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. According to Robyn Crawford, Director of Public Engagement for Educator Volunteer Network, the needs don’t end there.

“Schools all over the world where poverty, illness or war is a factor are welcome to apply,” she says. “They need to have some access to the Internet and speak English well enough to be able to communicate on a basic level in English. They also need to have respect for Human Rights and they need to be a registered school entity.”

Through the network educators and volunteers share ideas and work as online teams to work faster and more efficiently.

“One of the things that’s unique about Educator Volunteer Network is that not only does it give educators and volunteers a place to find one another, but to find templates and best practices and get coaching to help them along,” notes Crawford.

Although only four months old, Educator Volunteer Network is already garnering positive feedback from mentors and those who benefit from it.

“I’m in touch directly with a school in Uganda, assisting them by providing curriculum for their teachers,” says Melanie Wilson, an online volunteer and full-time PhD candidate in Montreal. “It’s been a fun, interesting and empowering experience that’s fit nicely into my already busy schedule.”

Patrick Makisa, the Director of Rock Community School in Uganda, works one-on-one with Wilson. “I’m very grateful for such an opportunity. Melanie is offering great guidance as per school instruction and teachers’ activities.”
There are no fees to be a part of the Educator Volunteer Network for educators or volunteers.
“For that reason we do ask for donations,” says Crawford. “We have a program called Adopt a School that works out to $20 a week that supports the schools’ access to the volunteer network.”
Still in its infancy, the organization is seeking additional volunteers to complement the 50 they currently have.

“Our long-term goal is to have a team of online volunteers for every educator that needs them,” says Crawford. “We’re starting at 50 and we’re being careful to grow at a sustainable pace where volunteers, educators and donations are all growing in line.”

Volunteers experienced in education, communications, information technology, infrastructure, business or project management are currently being sought.