Should you volunteer overseas?
Volunteering overseas to support development projects can be a life-changing experience, and can add value in supporting local communities to build capacity and overcome poverty. It's a great way of contributing your skills and passion to helping, but in considering how to do it, there are several questions that you should consider.
The infographic above outlines these key questions, and gives you a starting point to consider what sort of volunteering is best for you. We've provided a brief summary of each option, and next steps for you below.
Long placement.Peacecorps and VSO are the world leaders in long-placements, where you will spend at least year, and often two years, working inside a community, usually partnering closely with locals, and supporting them to build capacity. It's a big ask of you - to uproot yourself for this long, but if you're really going to apply your skills to a community, you need to take the time to understand it, make a contribution, and transfer your skills.
Short placement. For a first time visit, this is usually the best option to take - where you'll stay around long enough to understand and adapt to the complexities of the local community, whilst also being able to contribute within a window of a couple of months that you might have over summer, after graduation, or between jobs. Approach your favourite charities to talk about options for short placements, or reach out to friends and family with existing strong connections to communities to understand whether and how you might be useful.
In & Out Trip. Use your skills and local knowledge to train locals, enable them to do things they otherwise couldn't themselves, and build some great ongoing relationships. These trips tend to be anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks, and the longer you can spend there, usually, the more useful your contribution.
Immersion / Study Trip. If you're short on time, an amazing way of understanding more about the progress and challenges of fightlng poverty is to go on a trip with a charity or community group (like your school or church) for 1-2 weeks. You'll learn a huge amount, and the trip may well challenge your ideas of how you can help in the future, but you won't help fight poverty directly, except by spending money in communities.
Don't Volunteer. It might sound harsh, but if you've answered to all the questions, we'd recommend that you don't volunteer overseas. Instead, why not consider learning a language, volunteering locally with charity that works in development, or starting to build a relationship with a community by going on holiday to a developing country, and spending time learning.