Deciding on which type of project you are best suited for can be a long and drawn out process. There are always important questions to ask yourself before choosing where you will go and what you will do. Being honest with yourself and having insight into your own strengths and weaknesses will enable you to reach your aspirations and will also make you a greater service to the project.
Questions to keep in mind:
Do you enjoy working in a large group or in a smaller social setting?
How would you rate your level of patience?
Do you have strong personal skills or is your strength more in laboral work?
Are your language skills strong enough to handle serious topics such as abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, etc.?
Does the type of volunteer work you want to do coincide with your professional goals?
How do you want to contribute to the project, what do you want to give and finally, what do you hope to gain?
Depending on the answers to these questions, there is a large range of where your volunteer work can go. Some different volunteer opportunities are the following:
Building a home, clinic or school
Mentoring children in dehabilitating situations
Working in after school projects
Practicing sustainable agriculture
Protecting endangered species in animal conservation sites
Supporting human rights efforts
Once you know what field of work you want to do, it is important to then think of the length of time you want to be gone, the time of year that you want to go, and the costs that are involved. All of these factors will help you prepare more for your experience.
Many people cannot afford to volunteer for long lengths of time due to commitments, work, family and finances. With that being said, any amount of time given can be used to benefit both the volunteers and the projects! For those who are limited with time, they may consider working in construction, or a conservation project, where as those that want to establish deeper relationships or assist in social work may want to consider working longer.
It is important to research different programs, their costs along with the type of volunteer work they offer, and if they are affiliated with any particular religious or political organization. Although you can certainly wait until you arrive in your host country to organize your volunteer work
, it is highly recommended to go through a program or organization of some sort. Be careful of false organizations that may appear to be legitimate, but in reality can be trying to take your money and run with it. Doing background checks, and connecting with local friends or acquaintances who you may know in the country can help you ensure that you will be working for a good organization and project. Although there are fees that are usually involved with different organizations, there is the assurance that those who are coordinating the program in the host country have done background checks on the projects and are familiar with the ins and outs that are involved in the work. Most communities in the host country do not have the extra costs to house and feed the volunteer. For this reason, volunteers are encouraged to do personal fundraising and save up prior to leaving. Involving friends and family helps and allows them to be a part of the experience as well.