Devoting time to helping others is perhaps the most rewarding activity anyone can take part in. Whether it’s feeding the homeless, bringing clean water to third-world countries, or working in orphanages, roughly 1.6 million people dedicate their personal time each year to those in need. If you are interested in traveling the world and joining this uplifting statistic, consider the following beforehand.
Plan and Prepare
Do your research on the country of your choosing before departing. Understand what languages are spoken, the cultural norms and differences compared to your own, and any health advisories you may need to be aware of.
For example, knowing which countries have higher rates of certain diseases is extremely important to help you prepare and reduce your chances of contracting them, and knowing which countries have higher crime rates is the best way to prepare yourself to avoid potential danger. Volunteering abroad takes a heart to serve in the midst of all of this.
Work with a Reputable Organization
The company or organization through which you choose to work should always be vetted before signing up. To avoid wasting time, research the group(s) you wish to work with to ensure they are actually among those making a difference in the world as opposed to reaping the benefits themselves. One way to measure this is through watchdog groups like CharityWatch.org, which carefully measure how your donations or efforts are funding the program you are supporting.
Of course, you should also make sure you are joining a team that is dedicated to a cause you are passionate about.
No matter how passionate you might be about the cause you are helping out with, you should always respect the culture of the country you’re visiting. No amount of training and education justifies acting carelessly. Visit these countries with an open heart, mind, and ears, for you are merely a guest in another’s home.
The reason this is so important is to ensure you are fostering a positive relationship with the demographic you came to serve. Without trust, there will be no progress. Your goal is to be seen as a line of assistance. Rather than leading these citizens in need, allow them to lead you and learn their traditions and ways. Taking the time to do this shows not only respect, but a genuine desire to help.
Share Your Experiences
While some may argue that posting pictures of your time spent helping in a foreign country is a bit pretentious, there’s no doubt that it positively spreads the word. Explain, in detail, how you spent your time in the country, how you helped, the country’s biggest needs, and what the respective culture is all about. Sharing your passion can, and often will, inspire others to devote their time to helping those in need.