Qualities of a Great Volunteer: #3 Energy
By Lacy Barker
Volunteering requires a lot of energy. Even on a short volunteer trip, it can seem like you’ve expended more energy in a week than in the entire month before you left. Add sleep deprivation to the mix, and hitting the ground running each morning can be a real challenge. Great volunteers are recognized by their energy. Having good energy on a volunteer trip is also key to keeping yourself safe from illness and accidents. If you’re exhausted all the time, you won’t be of much use to your team and you may have a hard time focusing on tedious tasks that require full attention. Like most traits of great volunteers, you can enhance your energy levels by preparing in advance.
Here are 5 ways to keep your energy up on a volunteer trip:
1. Take care of pre-trip health concerns.
Get vaccinated if required or recommended by your doctor. Make sure you have necessary amounts of prescription medication and any over-the-counter medicines you may need.
2. Build up your physical endurance and strength.
If you know you will be engaging in physically demanding activities, exercise at home in the months and weeks prior to your trip so that your body is not in shock when you begin pushing it hard.
3. Get enough sleep.
This means resting up before your trip and avoiding late-night packing. If you’re flying overseas and jet lag is a concern, consider taking some melatonin to help you sleep on the flight and to get you on track with the time zone of your destination country. Pack earplugs and an eye mask to help you sleep better in close quarters.
4. Eat well and stay hydrated.
Eating well can be extremely challenging while traveling and once you arrive in a new culture with different eating habits and foods you aren’t used to eating. Experts recommend packing healthy, high-protein snacks (nuts, berries, jerky, granola bars, etc.) and taking a multi-vitamin to ensure you’re getting your proper nutrition. Also, don’t forget to drink as much water as possible, especially if you’re working outdoors or staying in a hot climate.
5. Schedule in time for R&R.
It’s tempting to want to push yourself past your limits and work 24/7 to have the most productive trip. But exhausting yourself will actually make your work suffer after a few days. Be sure to schedule in the time to rest and recuperate. On team trips, consider having at least one person scheduled for down time at all times. That way, no one feels like they’re letting down the team. R&R time is also a great opportunity to center yourself and reconnect with your purpose for volunteering in the first place.
(Photo: Tiffany Najbart volunteered in Kenya as a 4th grade teacher in rural bush schools.)