It’s an undeniable truism: volunteering is one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your life. Whether you’re taking a gap year, some leave from work, or simply want to take on a new challenge for a week or two, volunteering can be a life-changing, life-defining experience.
There are no hard and fast rules to the world of volunteering. Each project and experience is unique to the volunteer and their placement, but these tips on what makes a good volunteer should help you when making a decision.
It might go without saying, but volunteering is no holiday. You’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful places on earth, and will certainly get the chance to explore and soak up the culture. But volunteering at its core is about helping others, and that means being unafraid to roll up your sleeves and put in the work.
Some volunteer programmes, such as construction or building, can be physically tough and have irregular hours, including late nights. It may be challenging but the satisfaction of a job well done is an incredible reward, and your self-esteem and pride will receive all manner of boosts from witnessing the fruit of your hard graft.
A team player
Almost all volunteering programmes involve a team of some sort. It’s an inherently social activity, and that often means letting go of an ego and submitting to the consensus. When working for a good cause, the driving force should never be yourself, but the greater good. There’s no greater feeling of affinity than when everyone around you is working towards a common goal.
For that full team experience it’s worth signing up to a programme with an organisation like Projects Abroad – visit their website for details.
The beauty of volunteering is the unique opportunity it affords you to visit far-flung places around the world, many which you might never have thought you would. Of course, this privilege comes with certain responsibilities. It’s essential that you’re always respectful of the land you have been welcomed into and the people you work with and help.
Everything from medical volunteering abroad to environmental conservation requires the utmost of tact and consideration. Your host organisation can usually provide helpful guides on this, as every country is different and has varying customs and beliefs.
It’s right there in the dictionary definition of ‘volunteering’, an activity that demands from the onset a great deal of sacrifice. In volunteering you’re giving up your time, and possibly money, for a good cause. When the hours are long and you’re exhausted, the reasons why you’re working hard for no money might be hard to see. But the rewards are there, and manifold – experience, friendship, and a fundamental sense that you’ve made the world a better place to live in.