Going abroad to work as a volunteer is a big decision, and if you decide to take this step, you’ll want to make sure that the organisation you are travelling and working with, is a responsible project. So before you jump head over heels into an experience that you might regret, make sure you gather enough information about the volunteer program you are putting your trust into. Your stay abroad should be the adventure of a lifetime. Here are 9 Points that will help you identify a responsible project.
#1 Financial clarity!
Working as a volunteer abroad isn’t always cheap. Weekly payments can range from $100 over $1.000! With that much money at stake you’ll want to make sure that the organisation is transparent about the where your contribution ends up.
#2 Information is a matter of course!
There are numerous social projects out there. Before you pick one, the organisation should be able to provide you with plenty of information about the volunteer programs, their current achievements and their plans and goals for the future. You are going to be a part in fulfilling these goals and hence, you need to be informed about them.
#3 It’s all about experience!
Look for field reports from volunteers, who have already worked with the organisation that you are interested in. A good organisation will offer you the possibility to get in contact with their former volunteers and to ask them some questions that they maybe didn’t answer in their reports. After all, it’s about the local experience and who can offer you better advice than those, who have already experienced it.
#4 Good reputation!
This point goes pretty much hand in hand with number three, but apart from that you should dig a little deeper on your own account. Has the organisation ever appeared negatively in the news? Are there reports from former members of the organisation who had some secrets to tell? If so, you better keep your hands off that program.
#5 You know who you are talking to!
Apart from a good name it is always an advantage to have a person and a maybe even a face to that person in the course of the conversation. Are you getting a computer generated information mail or is there a real person that is as much interested in you as you are in participating in the volunteer program?
#6 They offer volunteer support!
Not only should the program offer you support in your preparations for the big adventure, but especially once you have arrived at your chosen location as well. They don’t just accept anybody! As much as you want to know that you are on a safe road with the program you choose, they’ll want to make sure that they have picked a qualified and responsible person as well. After all, you are being sent to support social projects which might include the handling of children or animals.
#7 Give and not take!
As a volunteer worker you are obviously going to support a project where they need you as a working member. However, you should not end up doing some work that a local resident could have done and hence “steal” employment. It’s important that your program of choice for is very transparent about the position and the work you are going to get.
#8 Involving the locals!
You are working as a volunteer to make a difference. But you know where you come from and where you will eventually go back to. Make sure that the program you chose is aware of that as well. Involving the locals is one sign of a responsible project because it means that they will learn how to help themselves.
#9 Sustainability is the key word for a responsible project!
Even though you may have gathered all the information about the organisation’s volunteer programs, make sure that the goals they are planning to achieve are designed for sustainability. Even after a project is finished, the local community should be able to work with what they have learned and to continue this work without the support of the program. If you feel like the social projects offered by a program don’t aim for this goal, you might want to rethink joining them.
Even though this might seem like a lot to look out for, don’t despair! Once you have found a responsible project that fits your vision, there is nothing standing between you and your adventure of a lifetime.
Guest contribution by Romina Schmitz – edited by Volunteer World