Tips For Volunteering Overseas

Volunteering is a beautiful way to make a difference while supporting the nonprofit organizations that you love. It makes you feel like you have a purpose in the world while making the lives of others better.

The idea of volunteering overseas can be both intimidating and appealing for many potential volunteers out there. Yet, there is specific advice that they should try to follow. This advice will help keep them from making mistakes and unintentionally causing more harm than good.

Know the Organization

Unfortunately, there are a few pitfalls volunteers need to be aware of when considering volunteering overseas. When looking for an organization, keep exploitation concerns in mind. Some less scrupulous organizations may be willing to overcharge volunteers for the opportunity to help others.

While other organizations out there care less about causing a lasting positive change and more about making a profit. These organizations are at high risk for causing more damage in the long run and should be avoided at all costs. 

When it comes to organizations hoping to connect volunteers with vulnerable children, it is imperative to look closely at what is happening. Look at child protection policies, and make sure they are in line with common sense and ethics.

Keep Reading

Once you’ve found an organization that meets your needs – and the standards mentioned above – it is time to look more closely at the project itself. Generally, when an organization sends out volunteers, they do so with a purpose.

There is a vast difference between heading overseas to help build houses versus providing additional aid and education. Now is an excellent time to read up on the program itself and better understand what skills will be needed.

Research

Now that the organization and location have been decided upon, it is time for the next round of research. It’s time to research the area itself! Look up essential tourist guides to start – safety, advice, language tips, etc. 

This is a good starting place. Also, look up where you’ll be staying, what the cultural norms are, and if possible – reach out to volunteers who have gone before you. This will help create a better understanding of the location and what will be asked of you.

The Benefits of Volunteering

There are many reasons why people choose to volunteer their time to an organization they appreciate. Those reasons can include the desire to help nonprofits succeed, make a difference in the world, or even just the idea of learning a new skill.

The truth of the matter is that volunteering comes with many benefits. Some of those benefits are for the individuals helping out, while many others go toward the organization in need. Here are just a few of the ways that volunteering can make a difference.

Developing New Skills

This may surprise many, but volunteering can and will teach a person new skills. These skills can then be used in a multitude of ways, from work experience to personal advancement.

Provides a Sense of Purpose

Gaining a sense of purpose is probably one of the more common reasons why people volunteer – even if they don’t realize it at the time. The idea of joining something more significant and extraordinary is powerful and something that nearly every human desires.

Building a Community

Volunteer work has been known to help build and strengthen communities, as confirmed by the Corporation for National & Community Service. This happens on both a macro and micro scale. On the one hand, the community as a whole is strengthened. On the other hand, individual volunteers improve their networks as they come together.

Boost Self-Esteem

To put it simply: volunteering feels good. Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that volunteering can improve self-esteem. This means that a person can simultaneously help their community and themselves at the same time.

Gaining Experience

Volunteering can provide valuable experiences, many of which can be applied to in a work environment. Volunteering can be included on a resume and is often something that management may look for, especially in a relevant field.

Physical Health Opportunities

Many of the volunteer opportunities out there are at least somewhat physically demanding. While this may sound intimidating to some, what it really means is that this is yet another opportunity to achieve more goals. A person can get exercise and do good at the same time.

Reduces Certain Risks

According to Medical Press, people who actively volunteer may be at a lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, studies from the Journal of Gerontology help support this statement by showing that social service improves elasticity in the brain. This, in turn, can help prevent certain health conditions down the line. 

 

Food: an Escape from Disability

foodFor many young people living with Cerebral Palsy, a distant goal is independence. As we all know, CP varies in severity and expression depending on the severity of the brain damage that the individual sustained. For some, their minds are perfectly in tact but their nervous systems and muscles suffer from abnormalities of form and function. For others, though, the condition can leave them nearly incapable of ever living life independently.

One common path to independence, though? Food. For many who live with CP, the food industry provides a welcome road to a more independent lifestyle, complete with repetitive tasks, support from business owners, interactions with customers, and wages. Some large-scale operations like Whole Foods and Giant have already made commitments to hiring more individuals with disabilities and providing them with the attention and training they need to be successful. In Pennsylvania, Leg Up Farmers Market trains and employs adults with disabilities and walks them through the entire process, from farming the food to marketing and selling it to customers.

On a smaller scale, though, small businesses have a greater ability to provide those with disabilities a personalized working experience that is mutually beneficial. Whereas larger stores and restaurants entertain more customers and thus may not have time to nurture an employee with special needs, small stores, local cafes, and other good-hearted small business owners can employ individuals who may need some extra time and attention.

Take, for example, Victoria Reedy of Schenectady, N.Y. NPR recently ran a story about a young woman who lives with Panhypopituitarism, a disease that drastically limits growth hormone production and can also cause some other physical, mental, and cognitive inhibitions. Reedy struggled in school with both the content and the motor skills required to perform, but as a 26-year-old woman, she’s found new life working in Puzzles Bakery & Cafe, where she participates in the food service work and enjoys some tasks like washing dishes and

In another example, one young man with CP turned his dietary restrictions into a platform for his passion as a food critic. Alex Jenkins of Charlotte, North Carolina, lives with Cerebral Palsy, and as a result, has some pretty intense dietary restrictions. In addition, Alex experiences some limited mobility and reduced fine motor skills, so he often asks his waiters to cut his food for him. Writing under the pseudonym The Dude, Alex pens reviews of the restaurants that includes discussions of their accessibility to individuals with handicaps and their ability to accommodate him. With his mother and his caregiver, Alex regularly visits restaurants, and afterwards, he and his mother draft and post reviews on his blog, Food with the Dude. In this way, Alex has harnessed his disability into a positive, informative outlet.
For many with disabilities, food is an open door to freedom and mobility. It’s a common ground, a learning space, and a way for these individuals to earn a small income.