What to consider if volunteer abroad?

In this post, I’d like to expose some important points for those who intend to volunteer abroad. Living in 3 different countries and travelling along other 11, I could see many persons living frustrating experiences, mainly those who went with the expectation to do an internship/volunteer in a developing country and faced all kinds of scams.

I’ve already promoted internships abroad and I’ve already seen even companies using the name of international organizations with the simple touchstone “lie at your face”. Besides of not being aligned to my goals, the ethical issue also made me to say “No!” to such organizations and don’t take this idea ahead.

My friend Tiago, from Brazil, presenting the host program of AIESEC to Serbian students as part of his internship

If well planned and provided with the proper structure, besides of the volunteer be ready to do the work he/she is proposing to, it’s a worthy experience. However, it’s necessary to pay attention that there’s an industry and lots of cartels behind many volunteering programs and organizations that present as social businesses and humanitarian ones — with the mere intention to take money from foreigners over others’ misfortunes.

In addition to the ethical matters to don’t be accessary to extortion schemes made by the misery and volunteering industry, a volunteer experience without previous carefulness can end into a frustrating waste of time and money. Would you like to face such negative experience? I guess you wouldn’t, right? Then, I’d like to reflect on the following questions below:

  • Search for all the information about the organization you’re interested in and the activities you have in mind to do, as well as about the persons involved along the process. If there’s no transparency, it’s a sign of mistrust!
  • Have in mind about what social problem the organization and the activities you intend to do are proposed to solve. It’s important to remember that social problems are not solved in a short term! It’s essential to reflect on questions such as: why teach English in a country where this language is massively spoken and foreigners live without know the local language? Wouldn’t it be easier, for example, allocate a native citizen with the same cultural background who knows better what has to be solved than any foreigner? The simple fact to orientate a foreigner volunteer already means an extra work to the staff receiving him/her, and if we consider that NGOs usually have shortage of resources in all terms…you got the point, right?
  • Contact someone who have already been in the country, city and, if possible, at the same organization and on the same activities you have in mind to do.
  • Pay attention to the selection criteria of the volunteers: what are you going to do as volunteer? Are you qualified to do the activities you’re proposing to? Have you ever done this activity at your home/university/hometown/country? Why the hell cross the world to do something you don’t even do at your home’s backyard? In your country, could you make the activities you have in mind without any previous experience and qualification? Would you add any real value for those who need most?

Do something really valuable for those who need most is the keyword if you decide for a volunteering experience. I hope to help you on your decisions!