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Published on August 14th, 2018 | by Jones


Soft skills you’ll need to be a welfare volunteer

There is so much one can learn from being a volunteer at a charitable organisation. One of the hardest types of NGOs to volunteer for, however, are welfare organisations. They are the ones responsible for the healthcare and wellness of suffering communities all over the world. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of these types of communities. Especially for those who suffer from illnesses due to a lack of clean water, which is a result of war or the absence of governmental support and resources.

These are difficult situations to witness, let alone help out in. But the aid is necessary and the affected people appreciate whatever you have to offer. For this reason, it takes a certain kind of person to be able to help these types of communities like those in Masisi DRC where MSF assists Ebola victims, for example.

As a welfare volunteer, you will be exposed to illness and poverty on a large scale, and you will be there to help those in need. Therefore, you need to have a specific set of soft skills in order to make it in a welfare NGO like MSF in DRC.  


As most of the volunteering work you’ll be doing occurs in various countries across the continent and globe, you’ll need to have strong communication skills. You won’t be expected to speak or understand the local language of every country or community you visit. The more time you spend in a community, the easier it will be to pick up on a few words and phrases that will make it easier to eventually communicate with them verbally.

But what you do need is strong communicative skills to still be able to communicate with them in some way, regardless of the language barrier. This could be through body language, hand gestures as a generalised sign language and reading the surrounding circumstances in order to better interpret a situation.   

More than that, you will need to be able to communicate with a variety of other volunteers and NGO organisers to make sure you’re in the right place, that the resources are available and where they need to be, as well as other admin communication tasks. Your communication skills will develop but it’s extremely beneficial to already be a great communicator.

Creative thinking and problem solving

A welfare volunteer needs certain hard skills to be put out in the field, but they also need to be creative thinkers who can be innovative in the moment. Take MSF in DRC for example, they have doctors and surgeons on their team who operate in less than preferable environments. They also have inadequate and a limited amount of resources that they need to make work for all those who need them.

This requires some creative thinking on their part to come up with solutions to these limitation problems. As a volunteer, you are there to be a physical helping hand as well as a mental one with new ideas and solutions for the NGO to adopt and work with.

Able to work in a team

And while you will have your individual contributions to the cause, you will always be working within a team dynamic. An NGO is an organisation that requires the help of every person in order to be efficient and provide sufficient aid to those in need.

Most of the time, you will be working with a group of other volunteers and NGO members to bring relief to a community. Think of it as departments within an organisation. While each “department” has a job to do, you need all departments to do their part in order for the company to do its job as a whole.

You may even find yourself in a leadership position where you need to take control of a group. For volunteers who have usually been in the field for a couple of months, it’s not uncommon for them to obtain a leadership role for the new volunteer recruits who come in.


Volunteering in welfare is a time consuming, energy-draining and emotionally heavy job. Relying on donations to give a community the help it needs can be frustrating. Not always seeing the positive effects of your service is demotivating and constantly giving your all is tiring.

The NGO industry is a physically and mentally tough and challenging one. You need to have a strong character and you need to have patience. Making a difference in the world doesn’t happen overnight, unfortunately. It takes time, awareness and more people to truly make a difference. By signing up to volunteer, you’re already helping make a difference. And by doing the work, you are saving and changing lives within a community, even if it’s only a small community.

It’s all welfare aid to those who need it and it’s more than what most people can say they’re doing. So, have patience and trust in the time, attention and aid you’re giving.

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