Volunteering internationally is an adventure in a foreign place matched with contributing to the community. It is a big responsibility and privilege to be invited in communities to contribute what you have. There is a sense of trust that the organization is laying on to you. And that shouldn’t be seen lightly. The drawback as a volunteer is that your within the organization is not permanent. The time a volunteer works is probably the lowest time span compared to anyone who works at the organization. But there is a way for your work to be a constant even after you have left.
Here are five useful tips that you can use to make sure your work stays while you are on another journey:
1.- Don’t rush to action.
Coming to a new country and working on a project is very exciting. But upon arrival, it is best to first observe and let all your previous expectations, whether good or bad, fade away. It’s important to start with a new slate and confront your own ideologies. Remember you are not a savior but you are there to give a helping hand to what is already at work.
2.- Ask questions.
The most important thing when starting is to understand what is happening around you. The work is just not a set of tasks but is influenced by many aspects like culture, religion, ideology of the organization and the like. And it is important that try and understand these things. In addition while you are in your planning phase or when you are trying to execute a plan, don’t assume that you know everything. It’s important to ask, even if it is just to re-affirm what you have thought about. Nothing beats local knowledge.
3.- Involve others in your work.
Get people who work in the organization permanently, involved in the tasks you are performing. Learning from them, what they think coupled with your own experiences helps make the work the best it can be. And when it is time for you to leave, you have left that person not only knows what to do but is also half owner of the idea. This is the very idea of sustainability.
4.- Write down everything.
As the organization that is hosting you expects you to be doing things from your own initiative also, writing down your work processes helps. This is a great way to ensure that your work is left behind well with no room for misinterpretation. Writing reports as well as rationales for your work and processes helps others understand from where your ideas stem from in which others can build on.
5.- Imparting your knowledge.
While you are in the place that you are volunteering it’s important to see the gap in which your specific skills and knowledge can be of use. And in some instances, it is better to teach what you know and have others implement it rather than you being the implementer. This is not an easy task to undertake. You must first be able to understand what is going on in the organization from their perspective and yours. Discuss with the organizational heads before deciding to undertake this heavy task.
What about you? Do you have any other tip for making an international volunteering experience woth it ?