Last updated on 26 December 2019 at 05:30 pm
“Half of Africa is starving, and here you are wasting your food.”
If you grew up hearing this phrase, you’re like many of us who heard this often at the dinner table. There’s no doubt that there are starving children in Africa, but there are also plenty of them in Britain, India or any other major city in the world today. It’s a stereotype to single out Africa, but we are all guilty of generalising. It’s a human thing.
Here are some volunteering stereotypes that you should be aware of:
Volunteering is Only for Young People
This is probably the biggest misconception there is about volunteering:
‘’Volunteering is only for young people who want to create experiences while they can and have the time & energy to explore their passion and the world’’
Is this far from the truth? Yes, it definitely is.
Volunteering has no restrictions on age, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Volunteer work is for everybody. None of these factors will define one’s ability to do voluntary work or to create a positive impact. Anyone can become a valuable asset in an organisation if they find the right match and if they are passionate about doing voluntary work.
Yet, this stereotype persists, which explains why the vast majority of volunteer applicants are from the youth sector. It is true that it is the young that can often afford to take a gap year and use that time to volunteer abroad and gain professional experience. This cycle has created a hype around volunteering which has become a trend, prompting many to also look for the benefits that come along with volunteer work.
However, if you ever chose to volunteer, you will experience a different reality where many volunteers are people of different ages and backgrounds. The misconception that only young people volunteer is purely that – a misconception.
Volunteering Abroad is Expensive.
Is it going to be costly for you to do voluntary work abroad? That depends on who you ask. Not every organisation is going to pay for your flight expenses, for example. But it is possible to find the ones that will support their volunteer workers by providing accommodation and food around the clock, like SOLS 24/7 for example. Again, it depends on the organisation, so choose wisely.
Volunteering abroad can be expensive, but it’s also what you make out of it. The saying, “You get what you give,” applies in this instance. There are volunteers who pay a lot to get work abroad but they would say it was worth every penny – you can’t put a price on experience.
Volunteering makes more sense when you’re focused on helping underserved communities around the world. As a developing continent, Southeast Asia needs a lot of help from volunteers like you who want to do work that matters.
If you happen to come from a more developed country, you’ll be relatively comfortable doing volunteer work in places like Southeast Asia as living costs are rather reasonable, even if you’re based in a capital city like Kuala Lumpur.
If Malaysia intrigues you, here are some articles that may help you cement your decision:
- Life As A Volunteer in Malaysia
- 5 Ways to Volunteer in Malaysia You Should Know
- Discovering Malaysian Culture While Volunteering
- Top 13 Organisations to Volunteer With in Malaysia
- Best Places to Volunteer in Malaysia with Animals
- Best Places to Volunteer in Malaysia with Environmental Impact
Volunteering Can Only be Done for a Short Time.
If you are signing up for one week of voluntary work, then yes – a short time is all you are going to have. Nonetheless, a lot of opportunities for long-term voluntary work is a possibility if you find the right places, and it is a lot more rewarding and valuable to commit for the long term.
Most types of voluntary work will naturally require at least six months for you to see and feel the impact you’ve delivered, this especially applies if you’re volunteering with a community. For example, if you have signed up to teach English to kids from an isolated, rural community, a minimum of 6 months is recommended for you to truly bond and earn trust with the community.
The impact that you bring however, the way you change their lives and the trust and hope you can give them – you can’t put a price on that. It’s not something that happens overnight – it requires consistency. Great things take time – and volunteering is the same.
In short, the more time you spend volunteering, the more positive impact there is, the better you feel, and hence the more you gain.
This is not to discourage you from short-term volunteering if you aren’t able to commit for the long term now. Whether you are tasked with cleaning up or assisting with fundraising, awareness-raising activities, or to run a workshop, for example, all these are a small part of the bigger sum and can still offer you a meaningful, win-win experience.
Volunteering is Easy Work, & It Doesn’t Need Commitment.
If you’re approaching volunteer work abroad with this mindset, you’re in for a sobering reality check. Volunteer work is not a piece of cake; you won’t get a full experience if you’re not prepared to put in significant effort, time and discipline. That is not how it works and you can verify this by asking any successful volunteer.
There’s no point including it on your resume if you’re not going to bring value to the experience yourself. The one thing that you need to keep in mind when applying for a volunteer position is that you should go in committed and ready to put in the hours and dedication to whichever role or task you’re given.
When you give as much as you take, you will automatically reap the personal and professional benefits that come with committing and dedicating yourself to a cause that brings greater good to all.
Having said this, it doesn’t mean that volunteering work is dull. When you are passionate, dedicated and have a like-minded team that are working alongside you on the same mission, it can be a lot of fun. You will be inspired and rejuvenated by surrounding yourself with people like yourself, who are committed to a worthy cause.
Only Crazy People Do That! Volunteering Abroad Is Dangerous!
You may have heard of isolated but very real horror stories about people who go abroad and don’t survive to tell the tale. They may have been volunteering in a rural community, with little or no access to WiFi. Sounds like a plot right out of a scary film, but it does happen.
There are inherent risks when going abroad, even more so when you choose to do volunteer work with underserved communities. It’s not easy to leave your comfort zone behind and travel thousands of miles away from home. Exploring new locales and culture can be intimidating, not to mention having to deal with illnesses, whether it’s homesickness or airborne diseases.
These type of risks can be prevented and managed if you’re well prepared. Vaccination and finding local allies to help you will mitigate the above issues well enough. Make as many friends as possible and don’t hesitate to offer help when required.
Southeast Asians are known for their hospitality and will be eager to help you should you ever be in a bind. But of course, there is no such thing as a perfect country, or a perfect state. The media is sometimes responsible for exaggeration; hence what you read and what you experience in your host country might be completely different.
Having said that, there are some places that are more dangerous compared to others, but you can certainly find many volunteer programmes with plenty of different organisations all around Asia and the rest of the world. With research and preparation, you will find the right match.
There are 7 things that you should know before volunteering anywhere. Once you do, you will be ready to face your fears, step out of your comfort zone, experience unparalleled personal growth and do something good for the world at the same time. The adventure is ready and waiting for you. But the question is, are you?