You’ve decided to volunteer abroad; you’ve been accepted by the project; you’ve accepted your skills share placement; you’ve made all your leaving-home arrangements – you’ll soon be there!
And when you get there? Our local partners, your hosts and your project will be expecting you and looking forward to welcoming you – you’ll be met on arrival, settle into your accommodation and meet your hosts, and there will be local orientation and introductions to your volunteer work and co-workers.
Your much-anticipated volunteer abroad placement begins!
The most important thing to remember is that the people and places programme is based on mutual respect – you and the project are working together, sharing skills – you will learn from each other if you share your ideas without judgement.
Equally important - never be afraid to ask questions.
At first you may feel overwhelmed by the different way of life you are experiencing. Remember all you have read in your preparation materials and everything you have been told at orientation to help you really absorb the new culture you are now living in. Working in a new environment is challenging but also rewarding, so try to make the most of every new experience. Remember you have been personally matched to your project, so be prepared to share your skills and to learn too.
Don’t expect or demand too much of yourself - bear in mind that volunteering can sometimes be tough. Our volunteers often question themselves during the first few days – what on earth am I doing here? What can I possibly do? Be prepared for the fact that what you planned on achieving within a week may end up taking you three times as long, or may not be achieved at all ... or perhaps you'll find that you’ve achieved a skill share you’d never even thought possible!
There will be times when you’re really on a roll, and everything’s going according to plan – but there may be other moments when you’re perhaps confused and frustrated. Rest assured that our local partners are there to support you, you’ll meet with them regularly to talk about your volunteer work and how things are going - they’ll be available to talk with you when you need them.
Don't expect or demand too much of others. Try to be tolerant, not judgemental; take the time to watch, listen and learn; be pro-active, approachable and adaptable; respect local people as you would like to be respected – and embrace the cultural differences you experience.
“... tomorrow is an irrelevant concept, until it becomes today. Each day reveals a new insight ... into the life and the culture. It’s like suspecting that there is a jigsaw puzzle, but you get just one piece each day. After 28 days, the completed puzzle might not be the one you originally expected. Whatever judgment you may make on one day, will likely have become irrelevant by the next day." A pandp volunteer
Talk with our local partners (who are now your partners too) – if there’s a problem, it can be addressed if they know about it, and they can help to find solutions!
There will be times when you’re exhilarated, but also times when you’ll be tired or even despondent – the overall picture may only become clear when you’re back home and can begin to put your volunteer work into perspective. Frequently volunteers only begin to recognise and appreciate their achievements when they've been home for a while.
You're volunteering to share and leave your knowledge behind, so - write a diary – do a blog – take pictures. Part of your commitment to people and places
and the project is to report back – your feedback is invaluable to us, to the projects, to the local team, and to the volunteers who’ll be there after you as you ‘pass the baton’ to them. Read More
… and last, but by no means least – make the most of your time off to enjoy new experiences, make new friends and have fun!