You will often read on the internet or in magazines that anyone can volunteer and that it’s only a click away! That you simply register, get aeroplane tickets, and are ready to volunteer! Unfortunately, there are many aspects of volunteering that some forget to think about, or completely ignore. Here are my tips and tricks on volunteering, and on how to make sure that you really are ready to volunteer.
First, volunteering is difficult! It is exhausting, and if you are going abroad, the jet lag and long connecting flights will tire you out. When embarking on a volunteer experience, you must make sure to be 100% at your best, this means to feel good physically and mentally. If you are sick or are recovering from being sick, try to avoid starting a volunteer trip (postpone it!). I did it, and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.
Second, go prepared. Do not show up on a camping trip without the necessities; will it be cold? Will it rain? Will you need waterproof shoes and many, many socks to keep your feet warm? Will you need a mosquito net (don’t skip that!)? Make sure to bring all the necessities– you want to make sure to be able to be well rested to be at your best when volunteering.
Third, don’t leave the “To Do’s” for the last minute. Do you need certain vaccines? Some need two or three vaccination sessions, do not attempt to get them all done a week before you leave. Will you need a criminal record ensuring that you haven’t committed any offences? These take a while to obtain, and if you are coming from a non-English speaking country, getting it officially translated and officialized will take even more time. So start early!
Fourth, inform yourself about ATMs and how the country works financially speaking (can you pay with a card or only with cash? Can you exchange money before coming to said country?. Do not come to a country expecting your American Express card to work, only to be surprised at the ATM with a blocked account. About this– make sure to let your bank know that you are travelling to another country!
Fifth, have you considered the country’s religion, beliefs and values? Is it okay to be wearing short pants in public? Should you be careful about the “do’s and don’ts” of a certain country (for example, playing loud music in public, laws regarding drinking in public when you are going out)?
I hope that the latter tips are useful for your preparation!