Spoiler alert : if you only have 2 minutes, head right to the end for some amazing quick tips!
I had wanted to volunteer abroad ever since I was a teenager.
Back then my biggest excuse for not doing so, was my parents not being supportive of me venturing into the unknown. As the years went by and as I grew older, I still dreamed about volunteering abroad. Unfortunately, I continued to make excuses for why not to. The dumbest one being: I am an introvert, so how can I possibly teach anyone anything? (I work as a language teacher in France).
This year I finally came to my senses and jumped into it, but not without doing a whole lot of research before selecting the right program, duration and location. Introverted and not sure what to expect, I wanted to sign up for a one week program.
This way I could carefully test the water, gain some experience, learn from it – and maybe sign up for a longer program in the future.
I contacted different organizations and platforms in search for a program that would match my experience, qualifications and limited time. And I didn’t want to travel too far away for only one week. I was suggested to teach English and work on after-school activities and events with kids and teenagers in Moldova. I e-mailed the project manager and asked her a bunch of questions about the country, the program, everything. We exchanged numerous e-mails almost on a daily basis for a couple of weeks. By this time we had gotten to know each other quite well.
Besides being the project manager, she’s also the owner of the school and a full time teacher. She made it crystal clear that her volunteers would know exactly what to teach, and would in most cases assist her during her lessons. The program fee covered the placement with a host family (two meals pr day, accommodation), and was a smaller fee than most other programs I’d seen.
It was settled. This was my program. A short-term program where I could use my teaching-skills, my creative skills and learn about a country I knew very little about. Left feeling nothing but excitement, I threw my fears and excuses out the window.
Looking back, it was the best decision I ever made. I had a wonderful time in Moldova and I’m glad I started out with a one week program. Now I know I can go farther, stay longer – and use what I’ve learned from this experience.
If I hadn’t spent all this time researching and putting a lot of time and effort into the e-mail correspondence, who knows what could’ve happened? I could have ended up on a program where my skills would be usless, and I would be useless because I’d be lacking the right skills.
So you want to volunteer on a short-term program? Here’s some advice:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; research your options and reach out to the organizations. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions. The more you know about the program, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
Don’t travel to the opposite side of the world if you’re planning to stay for a week. There are plenty of opportunities in countries near you – no matter where you are.
Do you have a special skill, talent, qualification? Find a program where you can use it for all its worth! If you’re planning to volunteer for just one or two weeks, it’s crucial that you select a program where you’re seen as an asset, and not a burden. Don’t choose a program that requires a lot of training, if you’re not planning to stay for a long time.
What does the local community need? Do your research on the location and ask yourself; are volunteers doing more harm than good to this community? Are they taking away jobs from local workers? Make sure you select a program where your qualifications are actually needed. Make that your number one priority.
For more travel stories by Kristine > https://explorelovetravel.net/