In the last decade, more people have been traveling to economically developing countries as volunteers. Being a volunteer is a great way to see the world while making a difference. Properly executed, it will allow you to witness the positive change you’ve brought about in the lives of others and the community at large.
Changing people’s lives, however, is no simple task. So before you go off and volunteer in a foreign country, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some knowledge. There are some important things to know before volunteering abroad.
There’s more involved than just buying a plane ticket and showing up somewhere. Read on to learn everything you need to know about volunteering abroad that you were probably told.
10 Important Things to Know Before Volunteering Abroad
Before you decide to take the plunge and volunteer overseas, you should first be aware of a few things. So let’s have a look:
1) Do Your Research
Research is by far the most crucial aspect of approaching volunteer work, including finding a reputable and sustainable organization to work with and a role that aligns with the kind of work you want to do. There are countless initiatives in development at any given time, but not all of them are created equal.
Learn the ropes by reading up on the internet about various organizations, the things they do, and the values they uphold. Then, join relevant Facebook groups and post requests for suggestions of work in your area of interest.
2) Choose Right Organization & Program
Choosing the right program can be challenging because many of them use catchphrases like “ethical” and “sustainable” to describe themselves, knowing that this is what most of us are looking for.
Find out the organization’s turnover rate for volunteers and if they accept anyone who wants to help out or if they have specific requirements for those who want to volunteer.
Think about volunteering for a group that was suggested to you by someone you know, such as a friend, coworker, professor, or teacher. Also, do some research to see what others think about the organization you’re considering joining.
3) Take Time & Prepare
If you are an experienced traveler, you are aware that planning international travel takes time. Before volunteering abroad, this preparation period should not be underestimated. From researching programs, destinations, and projects to packing and budgeting, volunteering abroad is a process that takes time to make.
Before committing to a program, take your time and ensure that all of your questions about volunteering have been answered.
4) Understand That Volunteering is Expensive
It’s true that free volunteer opportunities abroad are rare, but it’s important to remember that paying for volunteer work isn’t always a bad idea. The best way to pay for a trip abroad to volunteer is to save up for it ahead of time or find a way to get there for free by applying for scholarships.
5) Consider Your Motives For Volunteering Abroad
Perhaps more important than picking a suitable volunteer program is taking some time to examine your motivations for getting involved. A desire to volunteer abroad may mask underlying assumptions, privileges, and stereotypes.
In order to ensure that our decision to volunteer abroad is actually helping others, it is important to ask ourselves key and perhaps uncomfortable questions.
6) Learn The Language
Do not assume you will acquire the language the moment you step off the plane. Before leaving, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with at least some of the local languages. Volunteering in a country where you do not know know & understand local language can be isolating, stressful, and frustrating for you and others.
Before you leave, make it a priority to conduct research and learn some essential words and phrases. You may also wish to purchase a portable two-way dictionary or a smartphone app that functions as a trustworthy translator.
7) Learn the culture
Learning about the local culture is like learning the language; it can help you avoid a lot of hassle. This includes studying religion and culture, which may be especially relevant in Arabic and Muslim countries.
Moreover, you should get ready for a little something called “culture shock.” Depending on the volunteer position, you might be shocked and saddened to witness hunger, poverty, and war firsthand in a country.
8) Pack Realistically
Don’t act like you’re going on a tropical vacation. The work that volunteers do is important, so they should dress appropriately. However, dressing for comfort and the weather necessitates leaving the high heels and designer sneakers at home.
The same goes for your luggage; bring as little with you as possible. Of course, socks and underwear are essential, but you can leave the rest of your clothing at home. You should also get a new pair of shoes and break them in for your trip.
9) Be Prepared For The Unexpected
Keep a list of important phone numbers and contact information on you at all times, including those that pertain to emergency services. Think about storing this data on your smartphone and carrying a laminated list in your wallet or pocket.
Purchasing travel insurance is also highly recommended. It’s a common misconception that medical expenses incurred while traveling are covered by your private health insurance or credit card insurance policy.
10) It’ll Change The Way You Look At Life
People still lack easy access to water in some regions of Africa. There are still areas of India where kids live on the streets and drop out of school at high rates. There is a severe lack of access to medical care and high mortality rates in the rural areas of Southeast Asia.
Volunteering abroad can force you to confront such truths and open your eyes to new perspectives. You’d gain an appreciation for what you have and develop a sense of gratitude. You’ll emerge from the experience more considerate and self-aware.
One of the best and most formative things a person can do is volunteer, whether that’s in their home country or elsewhere. We hope that our mentioned 10 things to know before volunteering abroad here will assist you in making the best decision and locating the ideal volunteer project.
Thank you for reading!