Volunteering can be an overwhelming task. Even when you’ve got a team as helpful as The Great Projects’ behind you, it can still be quite stressful to plan out an entire trip. Luckily, we are here to help and today we are creating the definitive list of our top 10 tips for volunteers!
Let’s Start With The Obvious – Don’t Over Pack, You’ll Regret It
Everyone can be guilty of this whenever they go on any type of holiday, not just volunteering. The internal monologue normally goes something like this:
“That’s the socks and shoes packed already, now for the shirts.”
“I’m going for 12 days and at home I normally wear 1 shirt a day, so that means I need to take 12 shirts and maybe one spare…”
“Buttttt to be extra safe I am going to pack 24 shirts just in case I there’s a shirt thief roaming around the local area or they all magically become dirty.”
Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap. On a volunteering trip you’ll need one set of working clothes a day and then something fresher to wear in the evenings if you’re heading out to explore the local town. Pack what you need, and get things washed out in country if possible.
You do not need 17 different coloured tops.
In Addition To Not Over Packing, Make Sure You’ve Packed The Right Stuff
Some people love this part of a holiday, some people hate it, but is essential that you do your research and only take the right items with you in your suitcase. If the land you will be volunteering on has just suffered from a large amount of rain then you best make sure your raincoat is in your luggage. If however the destination you’re jetting off to is known to bask in sunlight 300 days of the year, you might need to stock up on the sun cream instead. Make sure you read every page of your pre-departure document before you go and you won’t have any trouble!
Learn A Little Of The Local Language And People Will Appreciate The Effort!
We aren’t suggesting that you need to become fluent in Malay for a trip to work with the orangutans, or sing songs in Spanish on the Mexico Shark Project, but if you take the time to learn a few basic phrases in the local language you will become very popular! Forget everything you were taught at school, locating the swimming pool or knowing that milk is only delivered on Thursdays (as was the case in my school) won’t be much use in the jungles of Borneo, but if you can work out how to introduce yourself and say thank you, you will become very popular very quickly!
Treat The First Day Of Your New Project As If It Is The First Day Of A New Job…Just Don’t Wear A Suit
Arriving at a volunteering project shares some similarities with starting a new job in that you will be meeting a whole host of new people who are all working towards the same end goal. On your volunteering project you may not have to worry about impressing your boss, but you will have to spend time getting to know everyone as this will make your volunteering experience immeasurably better. A lot of our volunteers make friends for life on the projects, but be warned, as in the early stages of a new job, you will have to make your fair share of teas and coffees…
You Don’t Need To Plan Minute By Minute, But If You Want To Explore Before Or After Your Project Then Get A Rough Idea In Place Before You Leave
Travelling to one of our volunteering projects is often the trip of a lifetime for many people, and as a result of this people often like to add on other excursions to the end of their time on projects. Some of our projects have ready made tours available, but for those that don’t make sure you spend some time researching which attractions you wish to see as the logistics in some of these far flung places can be a little confusing!
Spend As Long As You Can Volunteering!
Whatever amount of time you are able to spend volunteering on one of our projects will help make a difference, but to get the most from each of the projects on a personal level the longer you can spend at each the better. If you are able to spare two weeks or more you will have the chance to really immerse yourself in the project work and get the most out of your time in country.
Be Prepared To Have Your Eyes Opened – You’ll Be Travelling To A Different Culture And Country After All!
Volunteering is a fantastic way to expand your horizons and you will get to see some of the world’s most unique and varied locations, but bear in mind it may not be what you are used to seeing. Different cultures have different traditions and beliefs, so watch out and stay respectful at all times. This is their home not yours, and whilst you will be welcomed with open arms you still need to remain aware!
If You Want To Donate That’s Great, But Find The Right Way To Do It
Volunteers by their very nature are kind hearted and giving, but the area of donations are a little tricky. On some of our volunteering projects for example you will work in schools, and whilst it may seem like a nice idea to give one of the children who has been friendly some pocket money, this could cause quite a commotion in the playground. If you want to donate anything to the local children, then think of the things you would have wanted when at school. A new football for the playground or new set of pens and pencils to use in the classroom will be something that can be enjoyed by all, and it won’t get you in trouble with the headmaster….
Blogs Usually Get More Exciting Near The End…Not This One Though. It’s Time To Talk About Shoes.
It certainly isn’t going to be the highlight of your trip, but chances are you are going to need new shoes. Different locations require different types of shoes, so be aware of this and do your research (or if shoe research doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then just ask our helpful travel team and they will be more than happy to give you advice.) Boots, wellingtons or trainers. Each have their merits, but make sure you know which you will need on your project as you don’t want to have a suitcase full of footwear.
It’s Finally Time To Relax!
This is probably the most clichéd but important item on today’s list of tips, and that is simply that you should enjoy yourself. You are there to help, but this is also the experience of a lifetime too so take the time to sit back and take in all of your surroundings. This may be the only time in your entire life that you get to see the Victoria Falls or trek through the jungle in Borneo, so make sure you live in the moment. We almost got all the way through this piece without any travel clichés, but as these trips are bound to change your life and create some lifelong memories, it would be rude not to throw a few in. These are trips you will never forget after all…
Hopefully these tips will have proven of some use to you as a potential volunteer, but if you have any that you would like to share with us then please feel free to post them in the comments below!
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Come face to face with one of the world’s most misunderstood predators whilst aiding great white shark conservation. As a volunteer, not only will you get the incredible opportunity to dive with sharks, but you will also assist the team in raising awareness of the great white as you work alongside tourists and local school children to provide them with knowledge of the local environment and the importance of living in harmony with South Africa’s marine life.
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