So here you are, already knowing about the controversies of voluntourism, knowing about local problems and how to find a program matching your skills – that’s great! Here we have few tips for you, so you can avoid the most common mistakes volunteers make!
1. Prefer to share your skills with NGOs staff (adults) rather than children
Many volunteer programs offer volunteers to work directly with children but educating local staff gives not only more sustainable and long-term effects, but also avoids the problem of inconsistent teaching methods and children’s attachment to departing volunteers.
2. Follow the advices of your supervisor and don’t try to do things „your way“
As a volunteer you should be assisting the local staff and help them to continue their work. If you have any suggestions, share them, but don’t try to set up new rules, and tell others what to do. Remember that you are a newbe, and they have been doing their work already for a while.
3. Respect cultural values
There are many things you will learn about local culture during your stay and very often you can get surprised about certain habits. Be very careful in commenting somebody’s choices and beliefs. Don’t convert to your religion and don’t promote your values if they are interfering with the local ones. Example: in a country where family bonds are very important, don’t tell people that they should do in their lifes what they really want, even against their family’s will. Regardless best intentions, these kind of judgements can cause more harm and confusion.
4. Don’t hestitate to ask questions about the quality of your work
As a new volunteer you will be doing your best, but it’s normal that you need guidanance. Ask for it to improve your work and stay open for any suggestions. Both your and the host organization’s goal is to coopearte in a best way that is possbile.
5. Dress properly
In many countries of the Global South it is appreciated to cover up. Despite the heat, don’t wear shorts, mini-skirts and sleeveless shirts. The best way is to compare what your local coworkers wear to their daily work and adapt to their dress code.
6. Remember why you are there
For some host organizations it is hard to demand from volunteers to work as much as they do because – simply – volunteers are doing it all for free. Treat your and other’s work seriously be punctual and get really involved in your work. You will find time for some sightseeing and lazyness another day, without loosing satisfaction that you really did your BEST while volunteering!