Happy Thursday my friends! I’ve been getting a lot of the same questions lately when asked about volunteering abroad. I was going to create go-to document for all these Frequently Asked Questions, but as I started compiling the answers from different resources, I realized a lot of the answers were different depending on the program. So I want to showcase some fantastic organizations around the world that are helping YOU volunteer abroad in the easiest, most efficient way. First up is one of my favorites. Mandi from Go Overseas is answering some of your commonly asked questions about volunteering abroad. Take it away Mandi!
Am I too old or too young to Volunteer?
“Volunteering isn’t about how old or young, new or experienced you are. It’s about having the right selfless attitude and understanding that even with the best intentions you aren’t capable of fixing things. Many volunteers believe their influence will change a community, and in most cases this isn’t possible. But helping is possible, it’s just about setting realistic expectations. That being said, those in their teens and seniors should be aware of potential hazards – climate, weather, crime, mosquitos (and other pests).”
What is the difference between paid and unpaid volunteer work
“Most volunteer work will require a volunteer fee. I’ve actually come to accept this as more legitimate than not, as long as the organization can prove where the money is going. But if handled properly, charging a fee means that volunteers will likely have better and safer housing, will be provided with local meals, and that the organization is paying it’s permanent employees. Every organization needs money to function, so non-profits have to sustain themselves somehow.”
(I also wrote about paid vs free volunteer work, with information from Go Overseas)
What if I don’t have specific skills to share?
“Having specific skills to share in a community is definitely important to being a responsible, ethical volunteer. The second step is matching those skills with the needs of a community. Being a great teacher isn’t important in a community who desperately needs help in their hospitals. If you don’t have specific skills, there other options. You can join the community and learn a skill, provide basic childcare, be a teacher’s assistant, do paperwork in a hospital. These tasks aren’t as exciting as building a a school but they provide tons of value.”
How safe is it, really?
“Safety is dependent on where you are and how vigilant you are, but ultimately, bad things happen everywhere and anytime. Statistically, it’s very very unlikely that anything life threatening will happen. The fear of the potential shouldn’t stop anyone from volunteering abroad.”
(read more about my safety tips from last week)
Will it be hard/boring/strenuous/tedious?
“Truthfully – yes. People think volunteering abroad is exciting, rewarding, inspiring – and it can be. But it is also hard, boring, strenuous and tedious. No one should expect not to feel frustrated, tired, disappointed and angry. Because that’s reality. If you’re not up for the challenge, maybe it’s better if you stay home and donate to a cause or organization. But if you are willing to face these tough feelings, it will absolutely be worth it.”
Learn more about Go Overseas and connect with Mandi on Twitter! She shares fantastic stories, plus helpful tips and anecdotes for anyone considering traveling, volunteering, or studying abroad. Thank you for sharing Mandi! I look forward to sharing more questions and answers about volunteering abroad in the coming weeks.