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REALNESS AND RETURNEES: DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS AND THINKING ABOUT IMPACT IN DIASPORA VOLUNTEERING [Abstract ID: 1002-05]
Over the past decade, I have engaged in research looking at the relationship between diaspora populations, specifically members of the pan-African community in the Caribbean and Africa, with specific focus on Ethiopia. My research has demonstrated that the perceptions that exist between members of the diaspora versus that of the homeland population can make the settlement of diaspora populations who plan to return home difficult. There are social, economic and cultural differences between diaspora and home country nationals. These differences can cause difficulties such as miscommunications or misunderstanding. But there is great value in mediating these issues and challenges. Due to the increased amount of connections made possible by communications technologies and the founding of international diaspora organizations, “migrants are now in a better position to become involved in the development process of their countries of origin than ever before” (International Organization for Migration 2005). The focus of this paper, therefore, is the relationship between members of a country’s diaspora, in this case Ethiopia, and home country nationals through an analysis of two diaspora volunteering programs. Ethiopia represents one of the four countries that has been involved in Canadian INGO Cuso International’s Diaspora Volunteering Program initiatives and one of the five countries that was involved in a USAID- and Accenture-funded Diasporas for Development program. The project looks towards ways of bridging gaps, ensuring an increased potential of successful volunteer experience and valuable development work. It attempts to take into account differences in experiences, considering the perspectives of volunteers as well as all stakeholders in the diaspora volunteering experience. These perspectives arise from the range of different social categories (e.g. race, gender, sexual orientation) that make up the identities of volunteers, partners and beneficiaries. Overall, this paper looks to provide insight into the varied yet specific ways that diaspora volunteers have an impact on the communities where they work as well as on the communities in their adopted homelands.