You've decided you want to want to volunteer abroad, found the organization you want to volunteer with and bought your plane ticket. However, that is only half the journey. Today we look at 5 ways you can make the most out of volunteering abroad and maximise the benefits of your overseas placement.
Make Personal Goals!
Why are you volunteering? To help others is a strong reason but there is also nothing wrong with wanting to achieve personal goals, such as learning another language, improving your CV or having an adventure.
If you can find an organisation that meets all your objectives then your experience will be all the more satisfying. A happy volunteer is much better for an organization then someone who is not.
It is also important to note that you shouldn't expect the organization to change their programs so that you can achieve your goals. If for whatever reason they cannot accommodate you on important points then it is better to be honest in the beginning and look for something different.
Research, research and research!
It is very important that you know about the organization you will be volunteering for as well as the country you are visiting. This allows you to prepare so that you can get the most out of your experience. A volunteer that is prepared beforehand can work more efficiently and be more useful to the particular organization they are helping.
Understand that time can have an effect on what you are doing
You can volunteer for as long as you want and are able to. However, the longer you are able to volunteer, the greater the benefits you are able to reap.
Usually, volunteers are able to gain more responsibility the longer they stay. Even though you are giving your services for free, the host organisation is also using their resources to invest in you. They will need time to get to know you and adapt your skills to a role. You might also need time to get used to the new environment.
This doesn't mean you should not volunteer for short-term projects as your help would always be valued. Just be aware that your job role and level of responsibility can depend on the amount of time you are able to give.
Routine is good!
So you've just arrived to a new country and you are excited about a new adventure! However, this excitement can sometimes turn into homesickness. To prevent this try and keep up with familiar routines that you would normally do back home. Whether it is going to the gym or cinema or having nights out with new friends - make sure you keep up with regular routines or new hobbies to prevent homesickness.
Be open to new cultures
Being open to new experiences will make your time abroad much more enjoyable. You may find yourself in a country that might do things differently to what you are used to back home. Open yourself up to a different way of life. By doing this you will go through various experiences that you did not expect you would before your trip. It is also important to remember that if there is something you don't feel comfortable with doing then you should voice your opinion.
Taking these points into account you should be better prepared for your volunteering abroad experience!
At Spanish Marks we offer volunteering placements in Guatemala with our partner-charity, Asociacion Fatima.