Volunteering is a fantastic thing to do with your time, I encourage everyone to get involved in helping others where they can, whether that be formally or informally. However, there are some important factors that you need to consider, particularly when you are choosing to volunteer your time in another country.
There are countless organisations that provide expensive packages to people, selling the idea that they are helping others, when in fact the work that they get involved in overseas is not beneficial, sustainable or welcomed by many communities. I have personally been involved with projects that I have taken a step back from and questioned their effectiveness, and the role that I was actually playing in them; it is not always easy to spot what is a positive or a negative organisations to spend your time with.
I could discuss for a long time the issues that are attached to being involved in these projects, most commonly known as Voluntourism projects (on the surface it may look like volunteering on projects, but it predominantly for tourists) but instead I’m going to try and give you some top tips that may help you decide whether you want to be involved in a project.
- Give your time with sincerity
- Be careful that you are not exploiting anyone. For instance, don’t take pictures of random children on the street to put on your social media.
- Think about whether it would be acceptable in your community.
If you still can’t decide, ask yourself some of these questions:
- Would you still be doing this if you couldn’t take your camera with you? If you could do this without telling anyone, without taking photos, without posting all over your social media – would you still be volunteering on this project?
- What are your intentions? Are your intentions sincere? Are you volunteering to offer your skills and support to others? Are you there to learn from others?
- What skills can you bring to the project?
- What can you learn from the project?
- What are your ambitions for the future? Do you have an interest or passion for what you are volunteering for?
- What have you learnt about the project before you go?
- What have you learnt about the NGO, Charity or organisation before you go?
- Would you or have you offered the same amount of energy into supporting people in your own community?
I hope these tips have been of some help – please feel free to share some of your tips and experiences with us!