Why I volunteer? I volunteer because something inside me drives me to serve. I am conditioned to give back, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to be. I volunteer because I love making others happy. Making others happy, in return makes me happy. And that is okay! Volunteering satisfies our altruism. It truly does satisfy our need to serve, to give of ourselves and to give back.
VOLUNTEER. What exactly is volunteering? Who does one volunteer for? How do you volunteer? When do you volunteer? Where do you volunteer? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
There are many ways to get involved and I encourage you all to explore and test out different ways to do so on your own. Volunteering is such a broad term. Many people are often hesitant or skeptical when it comes to volunteering, especially when it comes to volunteering abroad. Well, I’m about to get really real with you guys for a minute.
Can volunteering do more damage than good? Sure. Can volunteering be for solely selfish and monetary reasons? Sure. Can people use volunteering as blanket image to make themselves look better? Sure. That should not stop one from volunteering though. The bad is out there, it is inevitable. However, there is more good in this world than not. Short-term volunteering, aka Volunterism, gets a bad rep these days. Volunterism is when the main purpose of the trip is to travel, with volunteering added briefly. There are ways to ensure you are actually benefiting the community/organization rather than hurting them.
- Make sure you are qualified to do the job required. If you would not be allowed to do this at home, you probably should not be doing it in another country either.
- Do not take away jobs from locals. Find organizations that are credible NGO’s. Ensure they still support economic values in the local communities.
- Be kind. A smile can go a long way. Though working at an orphanage for a couple of days may not seem impactful, that is not necessarily true. The power of touch can go a long way. Children in the orphanages barely receive any physical love or words of encouragement.
- Show up. Have the attitude that no-job is too small for you. These organizations generally are grateful for all the help they can get. Even if that means scrubbing a floor once in awhile as well.
Do your research. Ask questions. Be reliable. Hold organizations accountable.
WHERE? HERE IS WHERE TO START.
- SERVE, not save. First things first. I think this is the biggest conception with volunteering. When people volunteer people have an expectation that they are going to ‘save the world’. This sets an high expectation which leads to disappointment. You are here to serve the world (in the best capacity you are able to), not save the world.
- Follow your heart. List out your passions. Your interests. Your likes and dislikes. Do you enjoy playing with puppies or do you enjoy something a bit more challenging, like building a home? Whatever your interest may be, I guarantee there is a mission you can back. Authenticity is key to long-term change. Do it for the right reasons. “Let yourself be drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi
- Be realistic. Do not over commit yourself. Do not choose an organization you genuinely have no interest in. It’s okay to try a couple of organizations, activities and groups before knowing who or what you want to advocate for. Volunteering is a bit like dating, you have to date a few before finding the one. Not all volunteering is for everyone.
Volunteering gives me a sense of Purpose. Being. Hope. Try something new, you never know what it will lead to.