Qualities of a Great Volunteer: #5 Flexibility
By Lacy Barker
Careful planning and good intentions can unravel in a second while on a volunteer trip. That’s just the nature of international travel. Great volunteers have the ability to adapt and be flexible no matter what comes their way. How can you make the most of a situation that is less than ideal?
Here are some real-world examples to get you thinking about what you would do if the unforeseen occurs:
Your bus breaks down.
Transportation is often less reliable abroad than what you’re accustomed to at home. Whether it’s a flat tire from an unpaved road or an overheating engine, your group might find itself without a way to get anywhere. Remain calm. Trust your trip leader to take care of the situation and don’t panic. Stay focused on the positive: you now have hours of downtime that can be used for group building. Your group needs to work together to deal with the busted bus, and in the process, you will have the opportunity to get to know one another better, including your respective strengths and weaknesses, which can be put to use later on in the trip.
50 kids show up for an after-school program instead of 20.
While your volunteer program can give you a good estimate of how many people to expect for activities, there’s always the possibility that significantly fewer or significantly more people will show up. Try to plan in advance adaptations for activities with fluid number of participants. “Duck Duck Goose” would be great for 20 kids but a nightmare for 50. Perhaps substituting “Red Rover” would be a better option. Think beyond numbers as well. Participants may have varying degrees of skill levels, ages, and language comprehension. Make sure to account for these factors in your planning.