As the time approaches more volunteer abroad trips, some people might be left frozen as to which direction to take. The line between helping and harming can be a sensitive one. Well-meaning people are left without knowing what organizations to support. As this season approaches, here are a few questions that may help determine if the organization you are volunteering with is one you want to work with in the long-term.
- Ask around. There are so many people who have gone before us and know the pitfalls and organizations to avoid, as well as some of the amazing organizations that could benefit from your trip. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you know with similar values for advice or insight.
- Check them out online. I don’t judge an organization by their trendiness at all, as some of the best organizations I know do not have tons of time to put into their website. But, one thing all reputable organizations take the time to do is to make sure their values and methodology is represented in their online presence. Check them out. Dig into Facebook reviews and their own personal sites. You will be sure to find some information.
- Develop your own values for volunteering. It is easy to throw stones at organizations who do not represent the best case scenarios. However, if you do not have your own volunteering values, you will continue to be a cynic without finding an organization you do jive with. What is important to you? What kinds of marks of sustainability do you look for? Ask yourself these difficult questions to learn more about the kind of organization to align yourself with.
- Make sure the group does more than accept teams. If there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be that your volunteer trip will do more good if there is more going on with an organization than merely receiving teams. Most reputable organizations have programs that run on the ground and utilize local staff, in addition to appreciating the support of teams.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to the organization itself. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask the organization itself. Ask about volunteer opportunities and when they are. Ask about their ongoing programs. Ask about the budgeting for the trip. You should not be afraid to ask questions - nor should you be discouraged from doing so. After all, this is your trip and you want to make sure it is a good experience for everyone involved!