5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Volunteer Experience
Are you signed up to take a volunteer trip? Or maybe you’re considering the idea of volunteering overseas. Either way, here are five tips to help you make the most of your volunteer experience.
1. Stay Positive!
When travelling with a group of any size, especially if international flights are involved, things will not always go according to plan–guaranteed. Keep an open mind and know this ahead of time to avoid getting frustrated. If your flight is delayed or someone forgot to pack their toothbrush, take some deep breaths. Keep smiling. Remember, a few setbacks won’t ruin your entire trip. No matter what happens, avoid complaining and strive to encourage the rest of your team by being positive, whether you’re the trip leader or not. Your attitude can influence the others around you–for good or bad.
2. Stay Professional
If you’re traveling to another country, keep in mind that you’re entering someone else’s home. Treat your hosts and living quarters with the utmost respect. Keep your space clean and dirty laundry out of sight and remember to clean up after yourself. Practice the Golden Rule and you’ll have an easier time enjoying your experience.
Additionally, you may be entering an entire different culture on your volunteer trip. Keep this in mind when observing how your hosts or other locals speak and behave. Avoid down talking their conduct and customs. Don’t make a big deal about the differences. Instead, do your best to learn as much as you can while you’re there.
3. Stay Healthy
Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in whatever you’re doing, especially if you’re really focused or having fun! But, if you’re going to make the most of your volunteer trip, you can’t enjoy your time or help anyone with a fever or a migraine. Here are some easy ways to make sure you stay in tip-top shape to keep serving during your trip abroad:
- Drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated.
- Apply sunblock when working in the blistering heat to avoid nasty sunburns.
- Nibble on a granola bar between meals to avoid low blood sugars and getting dizzy.
- Retire early at night to make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
4. Stay Engaged
I’m sure you’re team will have plenty of things on their list to accomplish while overseas, yet you might not get assigned to a task you would want. (Hopefully your team leader will play to your strengths, but sometimes things don’t work out that way.) No matter what project you work on, whether it be nailing a fence together or finger painting with kids, remember why you decided to volunteer in the first place. Whatever task you do, whether you find it exciting or not, you’re helping the cause.
Besides, if you get stuck doing something monotonous or laborious, you can always tweak it into something fun. Get the others involved and turn it into a competition. Establish a pattern with what you’re doing to keep your mind engaged. Sing a song. Dance a little. Be creative, and you can enjoy doing whatever you’re assigned.
5. Stay Safe
One of the most important ways to make the most of your volunteering experience is to stay safe. There are many ways to ensure you not only arrive to your destination, but also return home safely. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Travel in groups, whether it be across town or to the bathroom. You never know who you’ll encounter while in another country, and safety comes in numbers.
- Avoid travelling at night, because, as mother said, “Nothing good happens after midnight.”
- Trust your gut feelings, especially when it comes to entering sketchy areas. You may just be saved from a situation you’d rather not encounter.
- Purchase travel insurance. Many people don’t realize their health insurance doesn’t cover any expenses incurred overseas, and it’s better to spend the few dollars ahead of time rather than forking over $20,000 for an unforeseen medical expense.
Bonus: Record it!
Whether your volunteer trip is a weekend outing or a month long expedition, one of the best ways to make the most of your volunteer experience is to remember it! We compiled a list of different ways you can turn your moments into memories on another blog. Make sure you give it a read!