What can you do on a volunteer work trip?

posted in: 5 W's, Volunteering | 12

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.

The Lady babysitting the super cute son of a busy mum
African babysitting

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)….

What do volunteers do: hummer, paint, shovel, saw, shovel, learn.
Volunteer work experiences in Tanzania and the Republic of Haiti

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…..

What do volunteers do: cook, draw, play, decorate.
Volunteer work experiences in The Philippines and the Republic of Haiti

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 do volunteers do:play, teach, laugh.
Volunteer work experiences in The Philippines, Tanzania and the Republic of Haiti

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?

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12 Responses

  1. Mona Bednarska

    Wow, that would be great to become a volunteer one day! I think it’s important to learn about other cultures and help people, who sometimes don’t have the opportunities that we do. We often live our lives, not minding about anyone else – we have water in our sinks whenever we want, too much food and many chances to improve our standard of living, by the time others don’t, even if they were trying their best. Our civilisation often doesn’t even care about the environment we live in – that’s terrifying.
    I’m happy you decided to help others this way! All the best!

    • The Lady

      Thanks for your insight!
      Volunteering can start locally with little projects. I’m sure you can find your own passion and field of interest to invest your time and talents too! And good luck with your blog! (:

  2. Karina

    I would love to do a volunteering trip! I’ve been looking into it a couple of months ago but then I got carried away by my workload again… Thanks for the reminder and for all the information you gave! 🙂

    • The Lady

      Yes, life tents to get in the way of thing like these! 😀 Try again, it’s totally worthy for so many reasons!!! 😀

  3. Adriane Thompson

    Love this so much! This is something I really want to do with my children. Do you have a post or tips on how you find the opportunities and actually prepare for them?

    • The Lady

      I’m afraid I do not have post where children are the focus, not being a mother myself :S Sorry…

  4. Sandi Schwartz

    Rossana, thanks for sharing this with us. It really is remarkable work that you are doing. I am writing a parenting book and one of the chapters has to do with volunteering outdoors in nature and how it makes us feel calmer and happier. I’m wondering if you have any experience with kids on these volunteer trips. If so, I would love to include a case study. Please email me. Thanks!

  5. Angela

    This is something I’ve always been interested in doing. When I was younger I asked my parents, and they gave me a hard no. Like you said I think it’s because they’ve never done volunteer work before and are thinking the worse. But, now that I’m older and don’t need their permission this something that would be doable. Thanks for sharing, I’ll probably start locally and branch out from there.

    By the way, the link for “international cooperation” is broken.

    • The Lady

      Pity for the answer you received back then… I’m sure they were trying to protect you 🙂 There’s the “right” kind of volunteering for everybody. Maybe you asked something thath, at least at their eyes, was a bit too much for your age. I wouldn’t suggest children to go do volunteering in refugee camps, for instance! But they can easily give a hand in less impressive environment! I’m happy you still want to try!! 😀
      Thanks for noticing the broken link, I’ve fixed it! 😉

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