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Published on October 9th, 2018 | by Jones


How to prepare for life as a volunteer

After university, many students choose to spend their time volunteering in different countries. If you are unsure of how to spend your time after graduating, this might be the perfect option for you. You will have to do a little research and preparation ahead of time so that you are fully aware of what to expect from life as a volunteer.

If you are heading into an area with refugee camps, you will need to look up what life is like in these camps so you are not shocked by the conditions. For those who are interested in volunteering, read on below for some top tips on how to prepare for life as a volunteer.

Look at your expectations

One of the first steps to take when preparing for volunteering is to look at your expectations. This is especially important if you will be going to a developing country. You will need to look at the refugee camps, the villages and the area without rose-tinted glasses on, as this will change your expectations.

You might experience real poverty for the first time and, if you are only volunteering for a few months, your impact might be significantly less than what you originally expected it to be. You might also experience complicated political and social situations, overwhelming levels of bureaucracy and an inability to get things done, but do not let this deter you. Most volunteer programmes are run like well-oiled machines.

Be willing to learn and change

As a volunteer, not only are you helping other people to learn new things, you will be learning new things yourself. You have to be willing to learn new things and change some of your views and opinions in order to have a successful volunteering experience.

If you go off on your volunteering adventure with a certain set of ideas of how it “should” be, you are likely not going to enjoy your time. Be willing to learn about a new culture without placing any preconceived notions onto them and be prepared to have a few of your opinions changed. If you are ready and willing to learn about a new culture and even learn a new language, then your experience will be highly beneficial for all parties involved.

Research what to pack… and what not to pack

You will need to look into what clothing is appropriate, not only for the weather conditions of the country you will be going to, but what is culturally appropriate as well. This means that you will need to pack clothes that are suitable for everyday outings that will not offend the locals.

Aside from clothing, you will also need to pack toiletries that are eco-friendly and easy to dispose of. You will be able to buy new toiletries in your volunteer country, but you should pack your own for the first month. Look for options that will not harm the environment and that are easy to pack away in case your volunteer site should change. If you are working between two refugee camps, ease of portability is key with both clothing and toiletries.

Learn about your project

So, you found a fascinating project online that deals with the humanitarian crisis in the refugee camps in Syria? While this is all well and good, you will need to learn all you can about the project before you head off to lend a helping hand.

For example, if you know that you will be teaching those in refugee camps about hygiene or that you will be teaching English to children, you will need to prepare some exercises and classes beforehand so you are not left feeling out of the loop. Learning about the project you will be taking part in will help you to feel more comfortable when you arrive.

Health, safety and insurance

One of the most important things to do in preparation of volunteering is to ensure you have all the correct vaccinations. You will need to look online or ask the volunteer programme about which ones to get before leaving. The most common vaccinations include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis

Be sure to get travel insurance as well and ensure that it covers you for any and all emergencies that could occur while you are overseas. You should also research the safety situation of the country you will be going to, especially if it is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis.

Go in with an open mind

Volunteering in a foreign country can be an exciting experience, but it is important to be prepared ahead of time. You will need to do some research on the project you will be taking part in and be sure to note every vaccination you need. One of the most important things to remember is to be willing to learn about the country and culture and be open to changing your viewpoints about certain things. If you go in with an open mind, your experience will be one that is both exciting and rewarding.


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