A Traveler’s Guide to Volunteering
Today, the internet and other global communications have increasingly shed more light on poverty, wealth disparities and environmental issues in the developing areas. This has led to volunteering becoming a popular activity for travelers especially when traveling abroad. Depending on how you have planned to spend your trips, you can always find a volunteering experience that fits your plans and interests. With different levels of facilities, there are various projects as well as organizations that you can choose to work with. Unicef does really great work in offering travelers with volunteering opportunities. Below is a simple traveler’s guide to volunteering while on your trip.
Pick Your Destination and Learn About it
It is very important for any potential volunteer to read the relevant sources and understand the core issues and the basics of aid and development. A good place to start is reading books on understanding the developing world. This will help you understand your expectations and create a connection to the country you plan to visit. Ensure that the destination you pick for your international service inspires you in areas that you have closer connection.(Image by Matt Nuzzaco)
Consult Your Organization and Read Books
There are countless travel books that you can read to get insights into other cultures and even countries. When you read books that tell about the place you are about to visit, you will understand various points of view as well as connect deeply with the place. You will also be familiar with their history as well as cultural norms. All that you have learnt about development and aid should guide you in choosing the organization with the right model of volunteering that fits you. Visit them and ask questions such as about the breakdown of the volunteer fees or even how and where the funds will be used.
When on a volunteering trip, the strongest indicator of your success is the kind of attitude you have when you get there. Since you are there to support, learn and even lift up other people, there is no room for arrogance in volunteering work. Make sure that you are humble. Don’t set expectations of what you plan or wish to do. Instead, ensure that you are always ready to offer any kind of help when need arises. Be flexible to do whatever your volunteer placement needs and go wherever help is needed.
Having a volunteering placement is one of the best ways of meeting new friends that you would have never befriended if you were on your own. When you have some time off from your volunteering work, visit some of those local areas that are of interest to you and be open to make new friends. It is also important that you respect other ideologies as different regions have varying economies, cultural attitudes, local governments and even business policies. Respect the differences and try to adjust to the new ideas, cultural norms and traditions.(Image by the foreign photographer)
The most important thing for any volunteering traveler is to abandon all your fixed expectation and get an ethical organization. This will give you the best volunteer experience that will make a great impact in the places you visit.
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Feature image by Ann Hung