The Ultimate Guide To Volunteering
Have you ever considered travelling abroad in order to volunteer on behalf of a cause that you believe in? If so, you first ought to make sure that you know exactly what you’re getting into and, beyond that, why you really want to in the first place. There are many reasons to volunteer on behalf of a good cause. A proper amount of self-examination ought to be the prelude to any serious decision on your part.
There are many excellent charities and causes to get involved in, from ecological advocates to war relief efforts. The main question you will need to ask yourself is if you are ready to travel around the world to work on behalf of these causes. If your level of commitment is truly this high, then you’re going to need some accurate and up to date advice on what volunteering is and what it truly entails.
Are You Cut Out For Volunteering In The First Place?
It seems like an all-too-obvious question, but it’s worth seriously considering. Have you got what it takes to travel halfway around the world to some remote destination in order to perform unpaid volunteer work on behalf of the community there? It’s a much deeper question than it seems. It involves self-sacrifice, hard thought, and hard work. It’s not your typical vacation experience, to put it mildly.
For people who value the hard work and effort that they can bring to people in need, as well as the satisfaction “really making a difference” can bring, the question should be a no-brainer. However, if you’re in any doubt as to the skills and qualifications you can bring to the table, it’s an occasion for some self-searching and long consideration. Even if you can’t bring yourself to make the commitment, always remember that you can continue to contribute to your favourite causes and charities from the comfort of your own home.
Have You Ever Tried Local Fundraising?
To find out if you are really cut out for the experience of volunteering for a cause, you might first make the experience of helping out at a local fundraising effort. For example, you might volunteer a few hours on the weekend answering phones or doing the books for a local charity, such as a fundraising event for an animal shelter.
Working with others and cooperating with them on behalf of a cause you strongly believe in will give you valuable experience that you can apply if you do ultimately decide to volunteer on a more permanent basis for an international organisation. You’ll also have the benefit of gaining these skills from the comfort and security of your own neighbourhood. Even if you discover you really aren’t cut out for full-time volunteering, you’ll still have had an invaluable learning experience, as well as discovering a cause that you’re more than happy to have a great time helping out on an informal basis.
What Are The Different Methods Of Volunteering?
If you’ve had a positive experience with fundraising, it may be time to move on to longer term volunteering. There are as many ways to volunteer as there are causes to volunteer for. However, what follows is a list of the currently most popular and prevalent methods of volunteering.
Do you have a specific cause in mind that you desire to work for on a very direct and hands-on level? If so, your desire to do so may lead you to volunteer for an organisation without first being asked to do so. Independent volunteering is an ideal solution for people who will be spending an extended amount of time in a particular place, as well as for those who may not have a specific destination in mind but do expect to be abroad for a significant period.
If you volunteer on a completely independent basis, you will normally have to arrange your itinerary, as well as all of your accommodation and food expenses. In exchange, the organisation you are volunteering for will keep these fees at a low level or defray them altogether.
Volunteering Via A Placement Service
If you are unsure of how to facilitate each and every single detail of volunteering abroad for a cause, you can make use of a placement service. This service will charge a middleman fee, in return for which it will help to get you matched with the cause of your choice. In addition, such a service will usually help to arrange the details of your trip, as well as arrange accommodations.
“Voluntours”, Or Niche Vacations For Volunteering
“Voluntourism” is a recent addition to the list of commonplace volunteering methods. if you are planning to tour a certain part of the world and want to do some community volunteering as a part of your experience, this is the perfect way to achieve your goal.
Organisations that organise “voluntours” will usually take care of all of the necessary details, but will charge a hefty price to do so. This may be the most problematic type of spontaneous volunteer activity, since most of the price you pay will go directly to the company itself, rather than any specific charity or relief fund.
Volunteering For Local Social Enterprises
Your trip may last only for a very short time, in which case it’s probably not a good idea to volunteer on a full-time basis. However, as you journey around the world, you’re bound to come across businesses that support progressive social enterprises in their own areas. You can thus volunteer on a short-term basis and help these businesses pursue their activities. Even if you can’t volunteer in the strictest sense of the word, you can still patronise these businesses when you are in their neighbourhood.
What Are The Different Types Of Volunteer Work?
Just as there are different methods of volunteering, there are also different types of activities that you can volunteer your time, presence, and skills for. Some of the most popular and common types of volunteer work include, but are not limited to, the following:
Volunteering For A Specific Event
You may wish to journey abroad for a specific cause, such as aiding a single event. This event could be a community relief effort for a flooded out village, or an annual event like the Paralympics. In most cases, the organisation that is sponsoring the event will assist you with food and lodging expenses during your time there. Once the event is over, you are free to return home or move on to a new event as you choose.
Volunteering As A Teacher Or Teacher’s Aide
There are plenty of organisations that assist people in foreign lands to improve their literacy. Some organisations are also devoted to giving a basic education to people who have had no real chance to obtain one. If you possess the necessary qualifications as a teacher or teacher’s aide, this may be a ripe opportunity for you to volunteer and put your skills to the test.
Volunteering For The Environment
There are many places around the world where entire communities are being damaged or destroyed by reckless mining, deforestation, or other harmful activities. You can also volunteer to help communities who have been hit by floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. Helping to provide these communities with the basic necessities of life, such as clean water and shelter, is certainly an excellent reason to volunteer.
As an environmental volunteer, you can work with an organisation to restore the local community and help survivors deal with the negative effects these harmful activities or “acts of God” have wrought. Keep in mind that this is one area where the effects of positive intervention may take years to manifest.
Working As A Health Provider
If you are qualified as a doctor, dentist, nurse, EMT, or other related position, you can volunteer to work on behalf of an organisation as a volunteer health provider. There are all too many places that lack access to even the most basic health care. Giving health care to women, children, or disabled people is an excellent reason to volunteer to work in these places. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that you were among the ones who helped comfort and improve the conditions of people who suffer daily from polio, malaria, AIDS, and other perilous and widespread diseases.
Volunteering On Behalf Of Animals
One of the most desirable volunteer positions is that of someone who works on behalf of animals. For example, you might volunteer to work at an elephant refuge or a national wildlife preserve in Asia or Africa. You might also work to improve material conditions for endangered species or join a scientific research team that is working to discover more about the lives of these animals.
How To Research Organizations In Your Area Of Interest
Once you have decided to journey to the area of the world that most interests you, you’ll want to determine which organisations in that area are the best to volunteer for. First, you’ll want to determine what type of volunteer work you are most interested in. Do you simply want to volunteer to work in the office, i.e., answering phones, making appointments, and the like? Or do you want to get out in the field, perhaps distributing food and supplies to needy people?
Once you decide exactly what you are willing or able to contribute, you will need to research the best places to do so. There are a great many websites online that will help you find the best organisation to work for in that part of the world. Using sites, such as Idealist.org, Grassroots Volunteering, Volunteer HQ, Go Overseas, and many others, can help you get a feel for the kind of volunteer activity that is available in your area of choice. Once you know what’s needed, you can then make the decision to use one of these websites in order to get matched up with the organisation of your choice.
Ask Plenty Of Questions – And Make Sure They’re The Right Ones
Don’t just leap headlong into a volunteering opportunity as soon as one becomes available. Stop and make sure that the enterprise you are embarking on is fully documented, legal, professional, and reputable. Don’t make the mistake of embracing an organisation whose work on behalf of a cause turns out to be completely fraudulent. In order to avoid this and make sure that the organisation you choose is completely on the up and up, there are a number of questions that need to be asked.
Who Gets The Money And What Do They Do With It?
If there is a placement fee to be paid, how high is it? What percentage of this fee goes directly back into the local community? How much of it directly funds the projects the organisation was created to promote? A bit of independent research is called for, which you can accomplish using the Internet. Check every bit of information you can concerning this organisation, its projects, and its general reputation. Weigh this information carefully before you arrive at a decision.
What Kind Of Relationship Does The Organization Have With The Community?
Above all else, you will need to have the full story on just what kind of relationship this organisation has with the local community that it works on behalf of. Did the community ask for their help in the first place? Is the organisation registered as a legitimate charity? How much money is made, and where does that money go?
Are there independent testimonies from people whose lives were improved by the efforts of this organisation? You’ll want to have concrete answers to these questions and more before you make your final decision. But there is a whole other set of questions to ask as well.
What Kind Of People Are Behind This Organization?
Who runs the organisation? Is it a religious group whose beliefs you may or may not share? Is it owned by a CEO of a corporation? If so, is it a private charity administered by that person, with no connection to his or her company? Or is it a “tax write-off” of that company that may not exist in a few years’ time?
If the latter turns out to be the case, you’ll be wasting your time, effort, and money on a cause that doesn’t really benefit anyone, and may even be illegal. These are all hard questions, but it’s necessary to have a concrete answer to all of them before you fully commit yourself to a cause.
What Does This Organization Expect From Volunteers?
It’s an excellent idea to find out just what exactly the organisation you’re interested in expects from its volunteers. For example, how much financial or personal commitment is expected? What exactly does the organisation expect its workers to do for the community or for the organisation itself?
How much support does this organisation derive from the actual community? If you find yourself doing a great deal of “infrastructure” building for an organisation without ever actually interacting with members of the local community, this should be your first clue that something may be amiss.
How Will You Live While You Do Your Volunteer Service?
It’s certainly worth your while to take a moment to reflect on how exactly you’re going to live while you perform your volunteer work. For example, will the organisation you are volunteering for take care of your food or lodging? Will they issue a stipend that helps you to defray these basic costs? Will they give you assistance in finding a place to stay while you work on their behalf? Or will you be expected to handle all of these matters completely on your own?
Take The Time To Properly Weigh Your Decision
After you have undertaken all of the necessary research and answered all of these hard questions to your own satisfaction, you will still need to sit down and properly weigh the pros and cons of your decision to volunteer. How long will you be gone from your own country and local community? How long will you be away from friends, family members, or your significant other?
Is the sacrifice of your time and money really so meaningful to you that it’s worth it for the satisfaction you get from committing it? If, after having weighed all of these important questions thoroughly in your mind, the answer is yes, then it’s time to proceed with your plans.
Don’t Always Expect To Witness Results Overnight
It’s important not to go into a volunteering experience with the expectation of seeing instant results just because you’re suddenly in the picture. Many charities exist precisely because of the lack of long-term solutions. This isn’t a problem that can suddenly be solved just by throwing money or a bit of community service at it. Many of the world’s most reputable and respected organisations have existed for decades.
Don’t be discouraged if, at the end of your time as a volunteer, you may have witnessed very little positive change, if any at all. Remember that it takes a village to educate a child. This old proverb has the extra added value of reminding people – volunteers very much included – that the effort they put in on behalf of a cause is cumulative, rather than immediately effective. Focus on being the best volunteer you can be, and don’t try to take on every single task by yourself. Always keep in mind that it may take years for the effects of volunteering to show their full impact on the community.
What Can Volunteering Do For You In The Long Run?
Volunteering can be a rich and rewarding experience. It can give you a whole new perspective on the world around you. It can give you valuable skills and experience, social as well as practical, that will remain with you for the rest of your life. It can give you a sense of personal satisfaction that can only come from knowing that you truly did make a difference in someone’s life. These are things that no price can be put on.
If you’re truly ready for an experience that very few others are ready or able to share, volunteering can be the gateway to an incredible new experience that will immeasurably enrich the fabric of your life, as well as the lives of others around you.