Volunteering, whether locally, domestically, or internationally, can be incredibly rewarding.
Choosing to volunteer can help a person to achieve their aspirations to make a difference. It can also have practical applications by improving your CV and helping you to stand out when applying for job roles.
There are a lot of worthy causes, charitable organisations, and non-profits to volunteer for.
However, it is important to do your research on where to volunteer to ensure it’s a rewarding experience on both sides. Keep reading to learn more.
Always Do Your Research
Before you commit to any volunteer opportunities, it is paramount that you do your research, especially if you want to volunteer internationally. You need to take the time to investigate the issues at play that require the need for volunteers, as well as the expectations of the role, and the work carried out by the organisation and the community within which you will be volunteering. In addition, you need to understand the socio-economic and cultural factors at play in the community.
When it comes to researching the organisation, there are several things that you need to be looking out for. First, what are the ethics and morals of the organisation? Do they align with your moral stance? What work does the organisation do? You should follow the money; where do the donations go? Is everything all above board?
In some instances, you might be able to find reviews or testimonials from others that have volunteered. This can provide you with an insight into what it might be like to volunteer with that organisation.
Lastly, you need to think about where you can personally make the most impact. What volunteer roles do your skill set, experience, and knowledge base suit you for? Some people take volunteering incredibly seriously, even making a career out of it and gaining certificates in things like public policy analysis from renowned institutions like the London School of Economics and Political Science, which can provide you with the knowledge you need to really affect change.
This can help to make you a more effective volunteer as an international student. Still, it can also help to provide you with more opportunities should you want to work with the organisations in a professional capacity.
The ethical implications of your volunteering are also something that you might want to consider. Obviously, you will want to choose a volunteer position with an organisation, charity or non-profit that has the same ethical standpoint as you.
This is where your research will prove important. Some volunteer organisations allege that they are sustainable or ethical, but this is not always true. These organisations tend to be more centred on making a profit regardless of whether that means that they continue to harm communities, habitats, people, or animals.
You might also want to consider the ethical implications of your actions too. When volunteering overseas or with poor communities, your actions can come across as self-serving, patronising, and even damaging in some cases.
Think about the white saviour complex and the ensuing conundrum. Your intentions might be innocuous enough, but that doesn’t mean that the resulting actions will be. This is something that you might want to bear in mind. This isn’t meant to put you off from volunteering, but it is important to consider your actions in a wider cultural context.
Paying to Volunteer vs Paid Volunteers
Within volunteering, there are a couple of different types of volunteer work. Depending on when and where you choose to volunteer, you might encounter paid volunteer positions, or you might be asked to pay to volunteer. The phrase ‘paid volunteer’ is an oxymoron, it is essentially a job, and therefore, you aren’t volunteering.
Organisations that make you pay to volunteer should also be regarded with suspicion. If you want to volunteer overseas, then encountering fees is much more common, but it should still be approached with caution. Before you commit to paying anything, you should have already done some research into the organisation, but you need to look into how the money is used. Where do the donations go?
Does it all go straight into the project and the goal? If so, this might be why you are asked to pay a fee to volunteer. Most of the time, organisations prioritise transparency, and therefore they will outline the practices and why you are being asked to pay and what it will be used for.
Finding the Right Role
When it comes to volunteering, the role that you choose to fulfil can make or break your experience. Obviously, the roles themselves will vary depending on the organisation, but you should remember to consider your own skills and experience. Is the volunteer role that you are considering going to utilise them? Does it make the best use of your specific skills?
For example, if you have graphic design or photography experience, then would designing leaflets be the best fit for you? There are roles of all classifications available depending on the organisation, of course. If you can’t find a role that fits with what you had in mind, you can always get in touch with the organisation directly and outline what you would like to do to see if they can tailor a volunteer position to you.
In addition to thinking about how well you are going to fit the role, you also need to consider how well the role is going to fit you. There are a few ways to find volunteer work depending on what you’re looking for. You will first have to consider some questions. What sort of time commitment is the organisation looking for? If you are volunteering locally, this might be a couple of hours a week. Some volunteering involves manual labour, which some people might find difficult.
You need to think about what the role entails and whether that works with what you can give. Volunteer work is often unpaid, and so a lot of people must fit their volunteer work alongside their paying job and any other responsibilities that they might have. Some people also choose to volunteer on a more casual basis, there are roles out there that only need filling occasionally or when an event is on.
The Bottom Line
Volunteering is often incredibly rewarding and worthwhile for the volunteers. However, committing to a volunteer position or an organisation without doing your research beforehand can mean that the experience is not worth your time. The factors above should be taken into account and used when making your decisions regarding volunteering. A lot of people want to volunteer because, ultimately, they want to make a difference in the world, and volunteering can certainly help, but you need to manage your expectations. Remember that volunteering is about providing help in a meaningful way to create sustained changes in the world.
- Shirley Owen is a blogger and writer who enjoys writing blogs on education, technology and general news. An avid reader, she follows all the latest news & developments to report on them through her articles.
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