Our intern Natavan explains how to choose a responsible volunteering experience. She underlines the importance of setting the volunteering goals and the impact on the communities and the environment.
The popularity of volunteering abroad increases and there are more and more companies offering volunteering programs. The large amount of options make it harder to choose. Before selecting your volunteering program, you should understand your objectives and what are you trying to achieve from it. There can be many reasons why you decide to go volunteering, such as experience different cultures, travel, meet new people, have some fun or make an impact. There is nothing wrong with any reason, but if your main goal is to help and have a positive change you should consider responsible volunteering.
What is responsible volunteering?
Responsible volunteering aims to make a positive impact on the communities and on the environment.
Before you choose a responsible volunteering project, find answers to the following questions:
What is the impact of the volunteering activity?
While reading about your volunteering program, there is always a description about the project. Try to go more in depth and beyond that brief description. Learn more about what is unique about the location and what is expected from you to do. Find out what kind of impact the organization and its projects has on a specific location. For example, if you are interested in marine conservation, investigate on how the project’s activities are affecting year after year the environment.
Where does the money go when you volunteer?
While going for volunteering you pay some money for the projects. The price can be different depending on the location, equipment, cause etc.. When you are paying, make sure to understand how that money are covering the project’s cost and how much the organization is spending to support the communities where you will be working.
How the organization is willing to help you?
It is great to do the volunteering with right skills and knowledge. However, there are cases you have lots of passion and interest towards the activity, but not necessary the right experience. This should not stop you to try and volunteer for the cause. For example, let’s say teaching. If you have never taught before but you would like to teach the kids, the organization should provide trainings and provide you with the right tools to make teaching process easy. Additionally, trainings are essential to set the expectations and provide you with necessary information. Plus, the organization has to help volunteers to understand the local culture and community.
Do you feel useful?
When you start volunteering it might be difficult to get fully involved due to several reasons. The duration of the volunteering experience is one of these reasons. In any case, you should feel useful somehow. The most imporant question you have to ask yourself is: Are you part of the impact? Try to understand the reasons why there is an obstacle for you as volunteer. Is this due to the lack of knowledge or skills? Is it because you do not really understand the purpose of the project’s activities? Once the reason is clear, address the issue. The best way is talking to the volunteer coordinator or project manager.
After finishing your volunteering
Once your volunteering is completed, check what you have learned and how you have improved since you started. Depending on which stage of your life you are in, learnings and experiences gained during volunteerism can help you in what can be your future step. Are you in your Gap Year? You can pursue what you have learned during your volunteering once starts university. Are you just having your holidays? You enjoyed so much what you did and you are now thinking about a change of your career. If the project that you have worked for left a very positive impact on you, it is worth asking if the organization has any job opportunities. If not, try to ask how you can be useful for the organization. At Ecoteer, we have career opportunities for those who would like to continue their activities on conservation and pursue an exciting career.
It does not matter your future plans after volunteering, what is important is that you have learned, experienced, helped and been part of the change. If you enjoyed your volunteering, do not stop from experience more and more!