What is volunteering really?
Traditionally speaking, volunteering can be broadly defined as donating your time – usually to or for a good cause. However, there are many ways you can volunteer. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose how, when and what cause to volunteer your time to. In making that decision, you should follow these simple guidelines and answer the question: what is volunteering to you?
What are your skills?
When it comes to volunteering, it’s generally a good idea to play to your strengths. However, also realize that not all volunteering requires certain skills. Things like volunteering at a food bank or a soup kitchen only require that you are polite, organized and on time. Never underestimate the power of social interaction. Simply having a friendly conversation with someone can brighten their day – and yours too. If you don’t have a specialized skill, there are still many routes you can go. If you are a native English speaker, you can get TEFL certified and teach in many countries. If you enjoy spending time with animals, you can volunteer with a conservation organization. You can also volunteer in construction even if you have little to no experience. At Build Abroad, we welcome all levels of construction volunteers because we have experienced foremen on our teams to help guide and teach as you go.
How much time do you have?
You don’t need a lot of time to volunteer. Even a few hours after work or school can make a difference. If you are new to volunteering, it might be a good idea to try different avenues before committing to something for the long-term. You should also be realistic. If you’re a full-time student or working a full-time job, don’t signup for something that requires you to be available 5 days a week. Start slow and progress as you get to know your limits and what your schedule can handle. After you find what you like, you can volunteer for longer. Various organizations offer day long, week long, month long and sometimes even year long volunteering opportunities.
Do you want to volunteer locally or abroad?
If it is your first time volunteering, you want to choose somewhere you are comfortable. If that place is in the mountains of Peru, then great! Book your flight and get going. If not, you should find an organization close to home. That way you don’t have to spend money on a trip and you will be helping your hometown. You can usually find volunteering opportunities through community organizations, or schools. If you can’t find anything through a simple google search, try calling some of these organizations and asking. They will be happy to hear you want to help. If they don’t have any opportunities of their own, they will surely refer you to another who does.
Is volunteering for you?
Volunteering is for everyone, young or old! Again, you don’t have to dedicate a ton of time to it – just try it out. If you are nervous about trying it, ask a friend or two to come along. Bringing friends might help you ease into volunteering easier and you will also be adding volunteers to the cause. As mentioned before, you don’t have to have any particular set of skills to volunteer. If you do have a particular set of skills, however, we’ve outlined some skill-based volunteer opportunities in the next few paragraphs.
What is volunteering for architectural professionals?
Here at Build Abroad we send a lot of architecture students to volunteer abroad at our different locations. It is a great experience for them and affords the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures. When architectural professionals think of volunteering, they usually think of giving their services away pro bono. This can be time consuming and impractical for some architects because it is hard to donate a small amount of architectural services pro bono – once you start a project, many architects and designers want to see it through to completion. On top of that, it may not be worth the time to handoff to another group of architects. Instead of offering services pro bono, there is another route to go – the route of construction volunteering. Whether it’s abroad (as mentioned above) or locally, construction volunteering gets you out of the office and outside. It also forces you to get your hands dirty and see all of the details that go into a construction project. This can ultimately offer new perspectives – ones that drafting at a desk all day may not.
What is volunteering for medical professionals?
Like an architect, a doctor, dentist or any other medical professional has a very specific set of skills that can be used almost anywhere. Many developing countries are in desperate need of healthcare and medical volunteers so there is never a shortage of work to be done. You can find many of these organizations by doing a simple google search or going through university hospitals. Before you choose a program, ask questions about how the program is structured to see if it is a good fit. If you decide to volunteer, ask what you can contribute besides your skills. Some programs may need medical supplies or even simple items that others may take for granted like clean water and vitamins.
What is volunteering for educators?
Teachers and professors can find volunteering opportunities all over the world, both locally and abroad. However, education programs can be tricky. It is important to make sure the program you choose has a curriculum and plan in place for their students. Those that don’t end up teaching students the same material over and over again, hindering their development. If possible, talk to past volunteers about what they have taught and work with the organization on lessons before jumping in.
What is volunteering for students?
Volunteering as a student can be great for a number of reasons. If you have chosen your major, it may be a good idea to volunteer for something related to your studies. This will give you the opportunity to learn on the job while doing some good. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what to study, you can choose a volunteering route that interests you, or explore multiple types of volunteering over a period of time. Students are also lucky enough to have flexible schedules with longer periods of vacation and time off. If you are a high school student, you can volunteer after school, on the weekends, and during breaks. If you are a college student, you can volunteer almost anytime of the year as long as you make up your work – and of course during winter, spring and summer breaks.
Start volunteering today!
If you really want to start volunteering, there’s no better time than now to do it. If you’re an experienced volunteer, get out there and keep up the good work. It’s people like you that make the world a better place. Be the change you want to see in your own city, state, country or even the world. And remember, even if it’s just for a few hours, volunteering can make a huge difference in the lives of others. So, what is volunteering to you?