If you have made it through life without the help of anyone else, I doubt this post will interest you. Volunteering defines humanity since it is one of the ways one can make a difference – no matter how small. The beauty is that no one is too poor to give, and it’s one of the most gratifying experiences one could ever have.
Unfortunately, we have to deal with issues such as hunger and untold poverty. While it may be impossible to eliminate such in their entirety, it is possible to be part of something beautiful. Even more unfortunate, however, is the fact that we have to talk about rogue individuals and organizations who use destitute individuals (children especially) to propel their greed further. It beats all forms of logic as to how anyone would scheme to rip off people under the guise of assisting kids and other needy individuals in the society.
Faced with the choice of where to dedicate your time and efforts, there are factors that are worth considering. It will be very frustrating to land a program that will not edify you as an individual, and it will be worse once you realize you have been feeding a person that is well capable of fending for themselves. I had a chance of volunteering at an amazing school in Nepal. I was lucky, or maybe I just did my homework. The internet is filled with very sad stories on how what was supposed to be the best experience in one’s life turned south.
In Nepal, tourism is one of the largest industries. This is followed closely by volunteering. Yes, you read it right. As a matter of fact, I love to consider both to be one thing. Volunteering in Nepal has been greatly commercialized, with individuals paying thousands of dollars for a program lasting for a few weeks. So, what to do so you don’t fall in the wrong hands? Are there legit organizations? Where does one start?
I have compiled what I hope is a helpful list of things to do should you decide to be involved in any volunteers program. The tips are not limited to Nepal, and may be applied to any other country. Some of the things to consider include:
Why are you volunteering?
It is very important that one determines what their intentions are. Maybe you want to give back to the society, learn new skills, network, study a new language, improve your health and well-being, get a break from your nagging girlfriend, or find the purpose of life. Whatever your reason is, a volunteering experience will give you just that – assuming you land the right program! About studying a new language: say you want to learn or practice your Spanish, a program in Latin America will be particularly helpful. As a volunteer, you interact directly with the locals, and that increases your chances of ever mastering the language.
What type of program do you need?
There are different organizations across the world that offer different volunteer programs. These could include grassroots organizations, national and international NGOs, and United Nations agencies among others. Personally I prefer grassroots organizations since I get to deal with the local communities on a personal level. Different organizations have varying needs, which is why it is extremely important to identify exactly what you need. They come with different resources, communication styles, experiences and needs; be sure to choose those that suit you.
Would you rather teach orphaned kids? Work with rescued elephants? What do you want to be part of? There are many options; choose that which is in line with your interests and capabilities. It is worthwhile to select something that will make you happy too. Trust your convictions and you’ll be good to go.
Very important! Remember you wanted to learn that new language? Or start practicing yoga? Do not forget that, and that means having time. Before committing to any program, ask them how many hours per week you will be required to work. Don’t be scared to ask, this experience is about you just as much as it is about the society you’re trying to help.
Skills and tasks
Again, ask what they will expect you to do. The best experience would be where you have to learn new skills. However, it is illogical to get involved in tasks that do not help you achieve what you signed up for in the first place. For those finding volunteer opportunities to add to your resumes, focus on tasks that will sharpen your skills. Ask; we can never overemphasize this.
Most programs require you to pay. Yes, pay to volunteer. This could range from a few dollars to thousands of them. Ensure you research extensively on how the money you pay will be used. There are also some that do not require you to pay but those, especially in Nepal, are very rare.
Volunteering is an amazing experience, make sure yours is nothing short of that. Research extensively before committing to a program. Failure to do so could make you become part of scams that only work to destroy faith in humanity. Become involved in something you will be proud of; something that will benefit the local community.
It is never too early or too late to start. Also, you don’t have to volunteer abroad; see that poor woman in your village, help her fetch water. Buy some candy or fruits for children in the orphanage near your home. Just do anything; it counts. Most importantly, don’t fuel greedy individuals’ thirst.