With participation in a given trip determined, the process of preparing and equipping should begin.
Getting ready for an upcoming trip or volunteer placement could include attending pre-trip training sessions held by your sending organisation or doing some of your own research and preparation.
Regardless of how you go about it, pre-trip training and preparation should at a minimum include:
Education on relevant topics
There are many common assumptions and myths that frame the way we think about missions. Many of them relate to either our understanding of poverty or a lack of awareness of how our culture has shaped our thinking and our expression of Christianity. Left unchallenged, these become blindspots that inhibit our effectiveness in short-term missions (STM) and can result in less than helpful engagement with overseas communities and ministries.
Good pre-trip preparation should include information or training to broaden your thinking around these issues and intentional efforts to debunk common myths.
The links below will help you begin to understand the complexities of poverty and development. There are lots of other great resources out there too, so make sure you follow it up with your own internet searches and research.
Child Protection Training
In cross-cultural settings, everything can feel foreign and it's harder to know where the boundaries are and what constitutes appropriate behaviour. This can result in teams or volunteers acting in ways that are inappropriate, or doing things that they might not do in their own country.
That’s why it’s so important to that you ensure you receive clear information and know the boundaries around interaction with children before the trip. Clear guidelines can also make you feel more confident, as you will understand what to do and not to do while on the trip.
During pre-trip preparation and training make sure you:
- carefully read and sign the organisation’s child protection policy and code of conduct;
- familiarise yourself with the do's and don'ts;
- raise questions if you are unsure of anything; and
- know how to report child protection suspicions, beliefs or incidents.
Guidelines on us of images and stories
Pre-trip training should also involve guidance to help you understand what is appropriate when it comes to taking photos and sharing details of the trip or projects/community you visit over social media.
Photos and stories have the potential to be both a positive tools for advocacy, or they can reinforce stigma, reduce someone down to a label/stereotype (e.g. widow, victim, aids orphan), or inflict a 'second victimisation' on an individual; particularly when the focus is on a traumatic experience or a highly sensitive issue. Sharing information about ministry activities in 'sensitive countries' could also jeopardise a local group of believers or their local church.
Therefore, it's important that you understand what is and isn't appropriate and clarify anything that you're unsure of before you go on the trip.
Always err on the side of caution if you're unsure.
We would likely find it odd and be alarmed if a team of 10 strangers arrived in our neighbourhood, church or school and began taking photos of children and posting these photos on social media without asking parents for permission.
It can feel just as odd and alarming to parents and community leaders overseas. Therefore, we need to help team members consider their actions from the point of view of the community members and children’s parents.
This is one of the situations where it can be helpful to ask team members, “what would be okay in your own country?”