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.
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 here-www.planeterra.org/.
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. http://www.desertelephant.org/
Naankuse, Namibia. http://www.naankuse.com/
Organisations I have researched.
Global Volunteer Network. http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/
Biospheres Expeditions http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/
Gap Adventures/Planetera http://www.planeterra.org/pages/voluntours/
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..........