Volunteering: where and how to start

Nowadays volunteer movement is very popular all around the world. Students and businessmen often offer their help to different organizations or funds. Volunteers are people who provide some kind of assistance without any payment. And if you feel that unpaid work and helping others is something you are interested in, keep reading and we will tell you how to start volunteering.

Why do you want to be a volunteer?

People who feel the need to help others sooner or later start thinking about volunteering. For example, you usually help your mother, sister or a friend and now want to take care of other people. But before you decide to spend the next several months in Africa, make sure that you understand the essence of this activity.

Volunteering means helping everyone who needs your attention. You cannot take care of one person and refuse to help another. Moreover, participating in volunteer programs should be done not only when you are in a good mood, but also when you have problems of your own, because now you have a certain responsibility for others.

On the bright side, volunteering will make you feel better about yourself and your life will be filled with new colors. Taking care of seniors will teach you to appreciate your parents. Helping people in the hospitals will make you realize that taking care of your health is very important.

A woman touching hand of a little girl

Helping others brings joy

How to find your first volunteer program?

If you know nothing about volunteering, simply start by searching information on the Internet, learn about existing organizations and what they do. Next step will be selecting the main areas of volunteer activities where you would like to participate. The desire to become a volunteer is first and foremost a desire to help someone. Therefore it is better to engage in the volunteer program where you can use your skills and abilities to bring the most value. Fortunately, there are so many volunteering programs in the world that you’ll have enough options to choose from.

After the research is done, start acting. Keep in mind that large-scale and popular events (like Olympic Games or Burning Man) often hire volunteers after a selection process. You also might have to undergo a special training before the start. In such cases, it is better to submit your application in advance: approximately half a year before the event. For instance, the recruitment for Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro began two years before the start of the competition. Those who want to help people with disabilities also might need to participate in training beforehand. In addition, remember that you need time to deal with all paperwork and purchase tickets, which are usually a responsibility of a volunteer.

Many volunteer projects have a website or a Facebook page, which can be a great way to communicate directly with the program leaders. You may be asked to submit a CV, describing your skills, talents and reasons for participating in a particular project. Plus, writing a CV may help you better understand what you want from this program and what can you give to others.

Do not hesitate to ask about working and living conditions. Find out whether you need to bring any special clothes, like raincoats or gloves, since not all of the volunteer projects can provide it. If you have already sent an application and did not receive a feedback, try to reach out the contact person via Facebook or Skype. If no one is answering and it has already been several weeks, most likely they do not need a volunteer at the moment. Do not get discouraged and try other programs.

Two women planting something

Find a volunteer program of your interest

Is volunteering safe?

It is very important to remember about safety measures during your stay, especially if you are traveling to an unfamiliar area. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that everything will be fine since companies which organize volunteer trips often do not take any responsibility for your safety.

But do not panic! Just remember the basic security tips that are needed for any volunteering and even solo travel trip. Search for a feedback from previous volunteers about the program and the place. Look up the information about the organizers on the Internet. Never transfer any money, which is not mentioned in the volunteer program conditions. Think of a plan “B” in case you will have to leave earlier. And most importantly – trust your instinct. Do not agree to participate in a volunteer program if you don’t feel confident or if there is no information about the project at all on the Internet. Tell your friends and family about your plans and get in touch with them to inform about your location.

Volunteers wearing the same T-shirts

Make sure to research the volunteer program

What should you expect from volunteering?

Prepare to communicate with a lot of different people. You may meet businessmen, who left their office to help animals in the jungle, students looking for ways to contribute their knowledge to the society, moms who want to teach their children to live in harmony with nature and simply travelers wandering from one place to another. This is a unique chance to see how many different ways one can live a life.

Volunteering allows you to gain experience outside of your comfort zone. For a while, you can turn into a farmer, baker, guide, nurse or a teacher. You will have an opportunity to live by the ocean or in the jungle, sleep in a tent or a house with 100 years of history.

Prepare yourself for a lot of physical work, especially if you are volunteering on a farm or taking care of animals. It is not the easiest work, but a very grateful one. During the trip, you can learn something new about yourself. Perhaps you will enjoy baking or want to become a polar explorer. This kind of knowledge about yourself cannot be obtained simply by reading books. It is all about the experience.

People holding shovels

Volunteering may include physical work

Are there any difficulties?

Do not expect to live in a 5-star hotel with a SPA. Most likely, you will share a room with other people, eat unusual food, get up early and be annoyed by others. It is not always possible to predict all of the nuances of living conditions before the start of a program. Therefore it is best to lower your expectations so it will be easier to cope with any discomfort. This way any surprises will seem even more joyful. If you still feel like volunteering is something you want to try – get your backpack and get ready for adventures and new experiences.

Volunteers repairing a forest trail

Saving nature is the best reward

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