I receive many e-mails with questions about how one can become a volunteer. “How do I do it?” “How I can have similar experience as you had?” “Is it expensive to become a volunteer abroad?” “What kind of preparation, documents do I need? Do I have to take any vaccines??” ” What about the cultural shock? How do I dress to stay respectful?”
You can read below all the answers to your questions. And be prepared you might become hungry after reading this article. So hungry you’ll have the will to satisfy your appetite. You will have the will to “feed your humanity”!
Important! All the information I share here is my personal point of view, based on my own experience, so it couldn’t be “right” or “wrong”. If you have some questions I would kindly ask you to write your comments in the Blog under the article (not in a personal message), in order that everyone will be able to see it, and we can be more helpful for everyone.
We can create a little “forum” and I would be very happy if people with previous experience share their opinion too.
First step: mental preparation
Here you need to honestly answer to yourself “Am I ready to do this?” Being a volunteer at such an early age was very beneficial for me. It made me more mature and responsible, and honestly these are one of the best memories of my life. But it was difficult. If going for a voluntary program you have to be aware with yourself. I am speaking for countries from the 3rd World where your ego will not have its validity. Sometimes you will have to wake up at 5 a.m. to prepare for the day (lessons for example), sometimes there are going to be cold showers both literally and figuratively. I had to take my shower many times with freezing water, because there were some problems at the guest house, and later at the hotel I stayed at. And by cold showers I also mean that sometimes you will face the situation of “it is not possible” and it is really not possible even for the little things we are so used to. You can’t just go out to the street and grab a taxi, sometimes you will share a “6 seat” (small vehicle) with a lot more that 6 people, sometimes as much as 17 for example. You will crave for your favorite ice cream, chocolate and so on, but the sellers will not be able to recognize the product you are talking about. You will realize that sometimes in life it will happen that olives might become something like a luxury. For me these were just little inconveniences but I know that for many people it can become a real problem. So my advice is, first think it through if you really want to do this? If you are ready to abandon your “ego”, ready to choose your cause or someone else as a priority? Are you ready to deprive yourself from something, and give it to somebody else with no return?
Second step: what am I good at, how I can really help
I worked as an English teacher. Previously in my native Bulgaria I had some experience with working at an orphanage. I enjoy being around kids and I am very patient with them during the lessons. So I know that it is something I am good at, and the people I am helping will benefit from it. But that’s just my case. You can pursue many other callings other than becoming a teacher. You can find out there many different organizations, with many different causes you can support. Maybe you have some particular education or skills that are going to be useful for somebody. So think about what you really good at I graduated at a school where I studied mostly computer technologies, PR and foreign languages. One of the organizations proposed to me to work for them because they needed someone to improve and develop their website, their blog and Facebook page. So even if you are not the “right” teacher, you will surely be able to find some area where you will be really useful as a volunteer. Explore your skills.
Third step: searching for a cause and an organization
SAFETY This is one of the questions that people find very difficult. To be honest, it that wasn’t the case with me. I like to say “If you really search for something, eventually you are going to find it!” So when you already know what you can propose from your side, it is time to find out “where?”. And here comes the Magic. Visit Google and type in: voluntary work, volunteering abroad, volunteering in India, Africa, Asia… Volunteering in China or in a particular town. You’ll find many organizations offering you their voluntary programs. If you are a student, you can ask around in your University; many schools and Universities around the world are in collaboration with some of the organizations. And it is a safer way of volunteering. There are some groups on Fb that I really like, and that can help you find the best volunteering experience for you, and to also connect you with some other people, help you share your experience. My suggestions are :
1.International Volunteer HQ 2.Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) 3.Volunteer for PLUR
Or if you already have chosen a place where you would like to volunteer you can search volunteering in ” …”, like “Uganda” for example, because on Fb there are many groups who work in particular geographical areas I know that many of you don’t have Fb, as I didn’t have when I was searching. I found the organization I was searching for at www.couchsurfing.org which is a website for travelers. If you create a profile there, you’ll find many groups such as “Volunteer network”, “Worldwide Volunteers”, “Volunteers who rock”, and many more. You can send them a question, as I did (a message that I want to volunteer, with my age, previous experience, what I want to do, etc.) and after that many people from these organizations and people with previous experience wrote me with their suggestions and offers. Many of them would ask for my biography and also very often would be full of questions and requirements.
–A WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT SAFETY. Ok, as I said volunteering is not a joke and you have to be responsible! When you are choosing a voluntary organization you must first research everything possible about it. Many organizations will offer you voluntary jobs which are illegal or don’t use donations and work in an inappropriate way. So when you find an organization that you like or that offers you a voluntary experience, what you should do is:
- Check their Facebook page, blog and website. Check if they have pictures and videos. Search for them on YouTube. Always choose big organizations if you are volunteering for the first time.
- Search for other volunteers that already have experience with them. Ask them about their opinions and comments. Apart from that, it is very important to find their e-mail addresses and contact them personally. Ask them about the work conditions, about the organization, about safety. Always search for feedback from many sources, as just one or two can be fake.
- Write to the council of the area you are going to volunteer and ask them if they can help you find out more information about the particular voluntary organization. Before going in Udaipur I wrote a letter, to the council in the Indian embassy in Bulgaria.
- FEES – try to offer yourself ! Maybe here you will face your biggest problem, because volunteering abroad is usually not cheap but I have some suggestions to do it. There are 10 important points you need to think. You will find them next Monday on my blog! Keep reading, keep feeding your HUMANITY! “I am the Master of my Fate, I am the Captain of my Soul.” Just ride it! Go follow your dreams-go and help people around the World! Make a difference!