Monday, August 2, 2010

So You've Thought About Volunteering? 2

Let's follow up what Norbert has to say here-So you've thought about volunteering I'll add further to some of the questions Norbert from Globotreks has raised, based on my research and actual hands on experience.I got interested in voluntourism as a result of an incident that I'll be relating in the Tsunami Blessing series I have guest posted on Globotreks.So you'll have to go read about that there, when it appears!  I have researched a few organisations, and projects, been on a couple of projects, and followed some of them over recent years so hopefully my advice can help others.

How to Select a Good Volunteering Program.
Only one answer here-RESEARCH! Get to know as much as you can about any that you are interested in.Google them.Get on Facebook and Youtube and do a search for them. Ask about them on travel forums, such as Tripadvisor.Then bookmark the site and keep checking for new info.And ask any questions there.You'll hopefully get past volunteers responding with their experiences.
Verify which organisations are marketing  projects, and which are actual projects.Then contact the project directly. But only after you have researched it thoroughly and had other first hand referrals about it,and then book directly.You'll save heaps, and know that what you pay goes directly to the project.

Why should you volunteer?
Covered very well by Norbert.But I would add that it is also about passing on your knowledge and skills to others.This is where you can leave a bit of yourself behind that can make a big difference in the lives of others.Teaching children in South America or Africa is great, but pass on what you know to other local teachers also,and they can then forever pass that on.
Another point : wildlife conservation volunteer projects are great on your resume', if you're studying any of the environmental sciences.You've got out there and shown a prospective employer you can do the hard work in a far off place with few facilities.You're not another desk jockey!

Why should you pay to volunteer?
Well covered by Norbert.I can  add that some projects use this to sort out those who are really dedicated and intent on contributing.After all, that money you paid is a big incentive to go the distance, and not pull out prematurely because you didn't like it, and you paid nothing so you can chuck it in easy.
For a struggling project with no income,just feeding and lodging you is a major expense to them.Expect to pay.But check thoroughly what your money is being used for.

How much are you willing to pay?
Comes back to your judgement and ability to pay.

What do you want to do?
You may be surprised how your volunteer experience helps develop your potential.And it can really push out that horizon of possibilities! It creates more options in your life.

How much time do you have?
I know of women in their 60's working their way around wildlife and community volunteer projects in Africa,enjoying up to 6 months stretch at a time.And High School kids using their 2 week school break.
 What do former volunteers say?
This is important.That first hand information is what you are seeking straight from them.Get on Youtube,Facebook, or travel forums such as Tripadvisor.And check out Gap Adventure's  wateringhole  travel forum.Gap Adventures operate voluntours,and you can also find first hand information at Planeterra
And here you can read a comment from Poppy who has volunteered in Namibia this year.Comment number 8-volunteering                                                    

What do the projects say?
Here you will find one project's view of volunteers.
Why volunteers matter!

What will you learn?
You'll learn not only about other cultures and people, you'll learn about yourself.Some projects will challenge you, your comfort level, your beliefs, and how you work with other people.
In my 2 weeks in the Damarland desert I learnt more about Namibia and it's people and history, sitting around a campfire chatting with a local guy, than I did on the 2 week tour we did previously.I heard his stories of his growing up.He entertained us with tales of his life, his community problems, and his adventures as a guerrilla fighter in their war for Independence.And he shared his hopes for his people.

Organisations I have volunteered with.
Elephant Human-Relations Aid, Namibia.
Naankuse,    Namibia.  

Organisations I have researched.
Global Volunteer Network.
Biospheres Expeditions
Gap Adventures/Planetera

Each of the above organisations are reputable and offer good value experiences.Check over their offerings thoroughly.You will find they will have a mix of their own projects, and may market others.This works in favour of many projects that just don't have their own skills or resources to undertake their own international marketing.

My next volunteer experience will be back to EHRA and the desert elephants,next May, and if anyone wants to come, give me a yell.I just might have  a camera team with me!Shush.Big secret still..........


Norbert said...

Thanks Jim!
This post helps a lot and complements the previous one by giving more options and by clarifying some of the previous points.
I agree about paying your volunteering experience directly with the organization. It takes out the "middle man" and improves the chances of the money being used on its purpose.

Jim said...

Paying directly to the project if you can sure is best .But there are many small projects that do not have the resources,internet access,computers to be able to market themselves internationally on the web.So the companies that act as agents are doing a valuable job in bringing their projects to the world, and hopefully filtering out any scam projects.
BTW the photo is of my wife.The guy on top is Bucket,one of the juvenile baboons at Naankuse.He is quite a character.

Kristine said...

Jim - thanks for the invaluable info. I'm not at a point yet where I can take off a good chunk of time from work, but it's certainly a life goal. I am saving this post and part 1 as a reference to when I finally get to go to Namibia to volunteer.

Biosphere Expeditions said...

Thank you for the valuable comments Jim. We agree that doing your research is probably the most important step for anyone trying to decide amongst the very many (good and bad, reputable and the opposite) offerings. There are also quite a few resources on the internet about how to go about selecting an ethical and reputable organisation. Have a look at or or

Jim said...

Thanks for the comment Biospheres!Nearly signed on for your Altai snow leopard project back in 2008 but EHRA desert elephants took my heart that year.But Altai still beckons....
In many ways they are similar projects.Vast wide open wilderness places, few people and each a distinct culture,unique wildlife,and a very basic camping back to nature life for the volunteers.
Think I'll load the CD player up with Tuvan and Mongolian throatsinging today, and dream!

Jim said...

BTW thanks for the links to those organisations.I'll check them out.Good info for anyone reading these posts.