Volunteering abroad is a unique and transformative experience that allows you to make a meaningful impact while immersing yourself in new cultures and communities. However, volunteering in an international context comes with its own set of challenges and expectations. In this blog post, we’ll explore the qualities and attributes that define a good volunteer abroad, focusing on the specialized skills and mindset needed for this enriching journey.
Passion and Dedication
Passion for the cause or community you are volunteering with is even more critical when volunteering abroad. You’ll likely face unfamiliar challenges and cultural differences, so your commitment and enthusiasm become invaluable assets. Being dedicated to the cause ensures that you remain engaged and resilient throughout your international volunteer experience.
Volunteering abroad often means working in culturally diverse settings. A good volunteer abroad possesses cross-cultural sensitivity, which involves understanding and respecting different customs, traditions, and perspectives. This skill promotes effective communication and helps avoid misunderstandings. For the younger volunteers, or recent school leavers, this can put you in good stead for future career opportunities, as you’ll have experience in communicating with people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
Depending on the destination, proficiency in the local language can significantly enhance your volunteer experience. While it might not be necessary for all volunteer roles, knowing the language can help you connect more deeply with the community, overcome language barriers, and be more effective in your work. Even if this is simply learning a few basic phrases, the locals will appreciate it!
Flexibility and Adaptability
International volunteering is full of unexpected twists and turns. A good volunteer abroad is flexible and adaptable, able to handle changes in plans, unfamiliar environments, and challenging situations with composure. This adaptability allows you to make the most out of your experience, even when things don’t go as expected.
Volunteering abroad can be emotionally taxing, especially when dealing with complex social issues or witnessing hardship. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity and stay motivated despite challenges. A good volunteer abroad understands that setbacks are part of the journey and remains determined to make a positive impact. Resilience is an important trait for life, and an important skill you can take back home with you.
Working on projects with limited resources or facing unforeseen obstacles can help with problem solving skills and communication with fellow volunteers and project staff. Strong problem-solving skills are crucial for finding creative solutions and making the most of the available resources. Being a resourceful volunteer can make a significant difference in achieving project goals.
Cultural differences and bureaucracy in some countries can lead to delays and frustration. Patience is essential in such situations. A good volunteer abroad maintains a calm and understanding demeanour, realizing that sustainable change may take time. Things often take much longer or may not be done in the same way back home, so you will need to adapt and take it all in your stride. This change of pace can often be quite revealing and enlightening.
Empathy and Cultural Humility
Empathy and cultural humility are at the heart of volunteering abroad. Good volunteers genuinely care about the people and communities they serve and approach their work with a willingness to learn from local perspectives. Cultural humility involves recognizing that you are a guest in the host community and approaching your service with humility and respect.
Responsible Travel Ethic
Volunteering abroad also means being a responsible traveller. This includes being mindful of your environmental impact, respecting local customs and traditions, and contributing positively to the local economy. A good volunteer abroad strives to leave a positive footprint on both the community and the environment. We also ask volunteers are mindful of water and electricity use age whilst staying with us, particularly in the homestay accommodations.
Volunteering abroad is a fantastic opportunity to not only give back but also to broaden your horizons and make a lasting impact on a global scale. To be a good volunteer abroad, one must possess passion, dedication, cross-cultural sensitivity, language proficiency, flexibility, resilience, problem-solving skills, patience, empathy, cultural humility, and a responsible travel ethic.
Embodying these qualities will enable you to navigate the complexities of international volunteering, contribute meaningfully to your chosen cause, and forge deep connections with the communities you serve. As you embark on this transformative journey, remember that your commitment to making the world a better place transcends borders and cultures, uniting us all in the spirit of global giving.