Volunteering is a wonderful way to help others, but please ensure you’re giving back in an ethical way. Check out our tips for how to be a responsible volunteer.
1. Do not sign up for a project you’re not qualified for. If you’ve never picked up a hammer before, why would you go abroad and build a school? Only take on assignments you have the professional background for or that you’re highly skilled in. Unfortunately, many organizations will encourage volunteers to work in positions and fields they’re not experienced for as a way to make a profit. Be wary of such companies.
2. Never work with an organization that doesn’t do background checks on volunteers especially when working with children.
3. Short-term volunteers should always be supervised when interacting with kids and not work directly with them, instead assist the staff. This will minimize attachment issues for the kids, keeps locals in charge and maintains stability. A revolving door of inexperienced volunteers isn’t helpful for them, so please keep that in mind.
4. Support organizations that aim to keep families together and think twice before working in an orphanage. There have been several reports of children being recruited away from their families with promises of an education and better life. Instead they are placed in a orphanage and paraded around for tourists to see. This benefits nobody except the shady people running the scam.
5. Ask voluntourism companies what they’ve done to accurately identify the needs of a community and what local partnerships have been established. There needs to be a sustainable long-term goal in place that helps people gain invaluable skills that will assist them in achieving an independent living. I explain it like this, it’s great to give someone a piece of fish if they’re hungry, but teaching them to fish so they can be self-reliant would create a lasting impact rather than a short term solution.
6. Do your research, ask where your money is going, and look for red flags like the ones mentioned above.