As you may have expected, there are a lot of things to take into consideration before joining volunteer programmes, especially as a first-timer. Leaving your comfort zone, dear ones, and everything you’re used to might seem easy in the moment of being in an adventurous mood. However, successful experiences isn’t a given guarantee but the better preparations, the better your experience will be.
In this blog, we will try to cover 7 of the most important things you should know before volunteering abroad.
1. What you want.
Before you start a volunteer programme abroad, you should figure out what you want to do. Do you know what kind of impact you want to create? Do you know what kind of work you would like to do since there are a variety of volunteer programmes abroad? Perhaps you have already gone as far as choosing a country you would like to visit. If not, an exploration of your opportunities would be a great investment. Maybe teaching English to indigenous kids in villages of Southeast Asia? Perhaps you are more into nature & environmental conservation around the world, or maybe it is helping animals that your heart beats for. The more passionate you are about a cause, the more fulfilling your volunteering abroad experience will be.
2. Ask yourself why
Another question you might want to ask yourself is; Why am I volunteering? Will my work even matter? This may sound easier than it actually is. For some, it might be easy saying; ‘’I want to make a difference’’.
There are a lot of different perspectives to look at volunteer programmes, and if you know which one calls out to you, it is a great start. Some choose to volunteer abroad purely for the greater sake of humanity, which is a beautiful thing to do. Others may be striving to strengthen their future career-opportunities since volunteering abroad is a good way to add credentials to your resume.
There are also those who are doing it for the sake of travelling, also known as voluntourism (find out what could be wrong with voluntourism). However, all these kinds of volunteer programmes have one thing in common – they have multiple benefits, but there are also some volunteering stereotypes that you should be aware of.
3. Find the right match
Know your values, purpose and goals. Then find an organisation that you feel has a volunteer programme that is a good match for you. Read about their history, mission & vision, terms and conditions, and previous reviews from former employees or clients to get an impression of the organisation. Try to not become easily influenced by other peoples’ experiences though. Be ready to go out on your own journey and make your own experience out of it. This mindset will help you focus on the long-term vision of the work you’re doing. Volunteering abroad is not exactly a bed of roses, but you might find it easier to bite the bullet when you know what you’re working towards and what you want to accomplish. Selecting the best organisation to work with can help a lot in this matter.
Here are the top organisations to volunteer with in Malaysia. If you are interested in joining SOLS 24/7, here are 7 reasons that we are the place for you to kickstart your volunteering abroad journey.
4. Some places need you more than others
If you truly wish to make a difference as a volunteer abroad, be assured; some places are more in need of international volunteers than others. You might ask yourself; ‘’Which countries need volunteers?’’ or ‘’Which countries are most in need for volunteers?’’
Not all countries have the same social or environmental issues and volunteer opportunities. Therefore, once you know what you want to volunteer abroad for – it will be easier for you to decide where to go.
Developing countries are often in much need of help and these are a great place to start looking for volunteer programmes. You can find a range of organisations which offer options for international volunteer programmes.
5. Volunteering can be addictive
There’s something about that rush of endorphins you get when you do something meaningful for someone else, it can be quite an amazing feeling to do good. This is usually what happens when you start your new job as a volunteer. Besides that, all the new friends you make, the new skills you acquire, and the benefit you bring to your cause can all be something you want to experience again after the end of your volunteer programme. This is, among many other reasons, why so many experienced workers join volunteer programmes around the globe over and over again.
If you could pick between money vs. meaning, which would you pick? Ask the older generations: “What’s the point of a job?” They will most likely tell you that a job is meant to provide an income. Once upon a time, the only measure of a successful career is the money we derive from it, but not any longer. If you are lucky, you might just find both in the same organisation.
6. Volunteering is about mutualism
As mentioned, volunteering is far from a one-way street. Volunteering is all about mutualism. However, doing good for others while enjoying the perks of the job isn’t against the volunteer programmes code of conduct. You get professional experience, training, and also learn a lot about yourself.
What is also important is the cross-cultural adaptation for both host and guest. To meet each other with mutual respect, and an open mind provides both parties with an opportunity to learn and grow together.
Joining any kind of volunteer programme is a process. Interviews, planning, and formalities have to be taken care of before one can join a volunteer programme successfully. This requires time and a little bit of patience. However, as we all know some things have to be experienced before we can truly know and understand.
7. You’re not going to change the world, but…
YOU can make a difference! You will improve your skills, experience personal growth, and will have a stronger resume after completing a volunteer programme.
Let’s get back to the difference you can create. Many volunteer programmes are focused on tasks that create al difference in someone’s or something’s existence. You might know the saying ‘’Little strokes fell great oaks’’ – it can be applied to volunteer programmes as well.
Small efforts can create big differences if one chooses to see the bigger picture. This is exactly what you will experience as a volunteer abroad, and if you really apply yourself, it will be a lesson you carry forward in future endeavours. Participating in changing just one life, saving one animal, cleaning one community, or helping one family – are all accomplishments that anyone should experience in their lifetime!
Psst… Here’s more if you are interested in volunteering in Malaysia, the heart of Asia:
- Life As A Volunteer in Malaysia
- 5 Ways to Volunteer in Malaysia You Should Know
- Discovering Malaysian Culture While Volunteering
- How to Prepare to Volunteer In Asia