If you’re a student taking a gap year, a fresh graduate who still isn’t sure about what path to take in life, or a working professional who wants to take a career break – volunteer work is for people from all walks of life. For some, it’s the thrill of travelling place and meeting new people that encourage them to take this up, but for others, it’s the fulfilment and enrichment that is the motivating factor.
By definition, volunteering means you won’t be a salaried employee. So if you’re expecting ‘x’ amount to be credited to your account at the end of every month, then this certainly isn’t for you. This will also mean that you need to have a certain amount of money on you at the time of volunteering. You will be offering your time and expertise for a few weeks or months to a number of areas of work – teaching the underprivileged, building shelters or homes, Project management and coordination, Health, Humanitarian affairs and peacekeeping, Law enforcement, Financial management, Legal services, Technical and IT, Documentation and public relations, Engineering, Grant Writing, Fundraising, etc.
Volunteering in different countries has become especially popular these days, as the benefits attached to it are boundless, the biggest one being the exchange of different ideas, interaction with people from all walks of life, learning to survive on your own in a different city, and establishing bonds with your co-volunteers that are for keeps. The other benefits are that volunteer work helps to reduce stress, gives you a sense of purpose, and will be an extremely valuable component of your resume.
There are a number of organisations that offer ‘paid’ programs, but that payment comes in the form of an expense-free stay and a minimum stipend to cover travel and food expenses. These organizations are mostly government entities because they have the resources to afford to pay hundreds of volunteers. You will have to foot the bill for your visa and plane tickets. Organisations usually tend to prefer volunteers that are well-versed in multiple languages, so if you want to take this up seriously, you should acquaint yourself with some international languages.
The best part about volunteer work is that you are not required to have specific qualifications as such, which is why you’ll find that most volunteers are either gap-year students or fresh graduates. However, there are a few that require you to have some professional experience. They may even have a lengthy application procedure that will require you to submit multiple documents and verifications, but once you get past that, everything is smooth sailing.
Organisations like Habitat for Humanity, United Nations, International Executive Service Corps, Plan my Gap Year, Maximo Nivel, etc. offer great programs in diverse fields of work. If you’re someone who plans on pursuing volunteer work, here’s what you must keep in mind
- Make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, and the time you want to spend. Make sure your coordinator addresses any questions you may have about your time commitment, the training involved, who you will be working with, etc.
- Know what to expect. You should be comfortable with the organization and understand what they require of you. Give the organization a small time commitment at first so you don’t over-commit yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to make a change. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit or feel compelled to stick with a volunteer role you dislike. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or else look for a different organization that’s a better fit.
- Enjoy yourself. The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why – is it the tasks you’re performing, the people you’re working with, or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new and unfamiliar. Narrowing down what’s bothering you can help you decide how to proceed.