A comment I often hear when I tell about my volunteering trips is “I wouldn’t be able to do what you did”. This sentence always leaves me perplex.
I look at these people and I’m sure that it’s actually not true. They simply have never tried and therefore have no clue what volunteers do.
What are the volunteer requirements?
There’s no need of a medical degree or to be an expert engineer to volunteer abroad.
Of course, in some cases, specific knowledge is needed, there are projects that only accept professional figures like dentist, paediatrics, teachers, plumbers…
But there’s a big difference between working in the field of international cooperation (needing narrowed university background, knowing ONU languages and be, generally speaking, well prepared) and do voluntary work in the free time.
For those that like me have a degree or a job in a field not very interesting where there’s no running water or electricity, there are still a lot of possibilities to help out with low professional tasks but not useless.
Volunteering “close to home” requires more often handy hands than deep knowledge. Some time ago, visiting the office of Compassion Italia Onlus (Compassion International is the head office), the charity organization I translate for as my Italian volunteering token, I was told that there are volunteers that spend hours doing simple tasks as putting letters into folders, photocopying, shredding documents…. There’s really no need of much knowledge to do these things, nor experience, nor passion.
The only requirements are availability and and willingness.
What do volunteers do?
During my international volunteering trips, I’ve done a little bit of everything, bringing myself and my desire “to do”, more than anything else.
Here are some of my (and my colleagues) experiences out on the fields: shovelling sand and gravel, cutting metal tubes with last century tools, painting indoor and outdoor walls with 35 degrees in the shade, climbing on very unsafe ladders, covering outdoor toilets (lead by those that know what they are doing)….
And then editing videos and providing photography material for the NGO’s website, making sure the website actually works, sawing wooden boards or sitting on them to keep them steady during the cut, making concrete (lead by those that know what they are doing) and trying to laying it on the walls (very complicated….), washing dishes with mums and cooks…..
And obviously everything that concerns my favourite ones! Help children to do homework and drawings, playing with a thousand children at the same time, babysitting the beautiful son of a busy mum, entertaining teenagers with primordial tricks….
What about you? Are you a volunteer?
Do you have the time? Do you have the desire?
What would you do and what have you already done?