What you must know as a volunteerOctober 08, 2015
Volunteer is a person, who works not for the money, but because of the desire to help and enjoys helping those who are in need. Volunteering is never an obligation; it is always an act of free will.
[Alex Karlov, a blogger]
In my previous post, I described 5 reasons why volunteering is especially useful while you are young. And today I would like to talk about the most important things for every volunteer beginner – how to choose the field of volunteering, the organization and what to keep in mind.
Volunteering is based on personal responsibility. Sometimes it is the only thing on which not only the success of the project, but someone’s life could depend. The freedom and good will should be balanced with the liability, otherwise do not even start helping.
As most of volunteers are not the highly qualified workers, they compensate lack of professional experience with personal contribution of work, care, attention etc. It is very important to choose the right occupation as a volunteer; only in this case you can be committed fully and enjoy the process. Ask yourself: What do I want to do? How and to whom do I want to help? Can I teach children? Can I help people at hospitals/hospices? Or maybe I will do better at promoting charity events and fundraising programs? Before you answer these questions, there is no point of moving forward.
Once you decided what you are ready to do, think of any concerns you may have. Volunteering is a serious commitment and you should be sure in everything before you start. Think how would you act in stressful situation, what would you need to learn or maybe you are uncertain about working alone? Write down these questions and ask them before you accept the task as a volunteer.
The next step is choosing the organization that should meet your personal requirements. Keep in mind that your expectations and dreams might not coincide with the reality, because the volunteering organization is always about the human factor – you will work with people and not all the situations might be pleasant. So choosing the volunteering organization and the fosterlings is always a compromise between dreams and reality.
When you are choosing the organizations, make sure to check its legal documents and purpose – the founding documents, website, team, description of work and activities schedule, inner rules and support could become a good base for making the decision. Also pay attention to the informal features of the organization, such as comfort, interpersonal relationship within the team, attention paid to coworkers and fosterlings, etc. It will help you to learn more about people you will work with and deepen your understanding of the organization.
If the organization suits your expectation, be ready for the interview and provide documents, answer questions (including questions about STD, drag addiction or previous convictions); also be ready for the refusal. The volunteer organization is responsible not only for its employees (i.e. volunteers), but also for the people it takes care of, and has its own criteria of a partnership.
Moreover, you should be ready to ask questions yourself. Think of them before the interview. What is important for you to know? What you have not found on the website? What makes you concerned? Do not forget to ask who is your supervisor (or coordinator) and what your authorities are. Ask for the instructions in case of emergency. If you are volunteering in another country, make sure that you know main local laws and regulations, whom you should contact if you need help.
Remember that volunteering is a mutual agreement, mutual decision and the recognition of rights and duties.
I hope these advices will help you to make the considered choice and you will fully enjoy helping others as a volunteer.