Do’s and Don’ts: Volunteer Breaks
Find a cause close to your heart
If you are passionate about something, that is the first place you should look. When you care about something, you are more likely to enjoy the work focused around it, feel fulfilled and complete your entire volunteer placement. Think about what bothers you. Is it homelessness, mental health or disabilities. Find something you want to put effort into.
Do all the necessary research
Before deciding on a specific volunteering, make sure you do all the necessary research. You need to ensure that:
The Non-profit Organisation or Social Enterprise that you apply through is credible. How do you check it? Look for annual reports they are a great source of information.
If applying through a company, look for one who uses your fee appropriately. Ask for a breakdown of where your money goes.
Is the organization well prepared to absorb volunteers.
Do they have the same values and mission as you.
Ask the Experts
If you know someone who has volunteered before either in the organisation or in the same city, ask them for some advice. It may be helpful to question those in charge at volunteer placement.
Get on a Skype call or Zoom call and understand the organisation better
It is always much easier to understand an organization, their values and mission through a call.. In doing so, you are able to ask all the questions you have, obtain all the details you need and get a better feel of if you want to work with such an organization.
Use Your Skills Appropriately
Volunteers have the ability to make a huge difference in others' lives. Yet, this is often undermined as unskilled volunteers are placed in positions that require specific skills. Determine what your skills are and look for volunteer placements that need those skills. The more value you can add, the happier you’ll be. Some skills organizations often need are:
IT skills - Digital literacy, create websites or apps
Teaching skills like art, mathematics or science
Ability to speak an additional language
Be Open to Change and New Experiences
If you are volunteering at a non-profit, you’ll notice that the organization is probably run very differently to a normal business. This may be challenging but use this new experience to learn about the different ways of running an organization or business. You’ll be working with people from different walks of life, who might challenge the stereotypes the world has created.
Persevering through these challenging times will result in great personal growth. These challenging and new experiences with give you valuable experience that can be used to further your personal career too.
Don’t go without booking your volunteer placement
Whether you are volunteering abroad or in your home country, don’t go to the placement without actually booking it. The risks of doing this can be scary. You may fly all the way to a new country, which might be very far from your comfort zone and be stranded with no volunteer placement. You may pitch up to the organization and they may not be prepared or have sufficient work for you.
Don’t be too shy
Don’t be too shy to share your ideas and take the lead on projects that matter to you. Many organizations are often understaffed or lack skilled staff as their budgets are low. They could really benefit from new ideas from an outside perspective. Additionally, don’t be shy to contact multiple organizations in order to find the best one for you, which leads us to the next point.
Don’t settle for something you aren’t happy with
Although you are volunteering to help others, you need to enjoy it too. The more you enjoy it, the more effort you’ll put into it and difference you’ll make. Don’t settle for the first placement that presents itself, search for the best suited volunteer placement for you. If you know that you won’t enjoy sitting behind a computer all day, search for a placement that involves you being out in the field. Don’t settle for a placement you know you won’t be happy with.
Don’t be afraid
This is especially true for those wanting to volunteer overseas in a developing country. You’ll be exposed to new sights, smells, tastes, culture and people. Some may shock you yet others will bring you such joy. Don’t be afraid to embrace all these new things as they will be your greatest teacher!
At TribesforGOOD, we place volunteers with understaffed organization to help in increasing the impact. Check out the opportunities here.
About the author: Kelsey has always been interested in the social sector. "I feel like I have truly found my passion whilst working in Vietnam, which is merging travel and social enterprises."
Kelsey is working with TribesforGOOD as a content creator.
Image Credits: Kelsey and Sarah Isaacs, from the project Street Sleeper.