Successful volunteer projects don’t just happen. Selfless volunteers from all over the world dedicate themselves for weeks, sometimes months, to a project’s success. If you’re planning to volunteer abroad in Latin America you need to know how to make maximum impact.
There are many volunteer projects to choose from; community development, animal care, construction, just to name a few. Many of these projects don’t require volunteers to have any previous experience. However, having a strategy in place and giving 100% effort is what can make your volunteer work that much more impactful.
Choose the Right Program
Again, most projects don’t require any related work experience or schooling. But that doesn’t mean you should go in blindly. Choose a program where you can really contribute your talents and expertise. There is a project for all skill sets at any level.
If you studied and have a passion for marine biology, you can probably contribute your knowledge to a sea turtle conservation program. Those who work in construction or have a knack for using their hands to build would be super effective at a construction site. Caregivers are perfect for working with kids or elderly, and anyone fluent in English is a good match for teaching English!
Track Your Successes
When you come in with a strategy, you’re more likely to set and hit goals for the project. Following through with a specific task to its completion gives you clarity on the impact YOU make. If you’re not sure what those goals could be, talk to the field manager on your first day.
If you’re working on expanding rooms for a clinic, ask the local foreman about a specific task you can complete within your program time frame. Whether it’s building the third wall or completing flooring, you will know that you did your part in completing a piece of the puzzle. While volunteering in a healthcare facility, track the number of patients you serve each day. This allows you to quantify your work, so you know your impact.
Ask for Help When Needed
Remember, you aren’t in this alone. You’re working alongside local professionals and other international volunteers to get the job done. If you’re unsure about a task, ask!
The worst thing a volunteer can do is go about their project in the wrong way. Not understanding what you are doing or falling behind schedule on your assignment will do more harm than good. You’re volunteering with the right intentions, so keep that same energy throughout your time there.
In addition to asking for help, you should be looking for feedback. Being reassured that the job you’re doing is up to par is an important aspect to maximizing your impact. It can give you jitters to be evaluated as a volunteer, but it’s for the betterment of the project.
Getting feedback provides you with insight not only on how you can improve, but where your strengths lie. This can help you to refine your skills in specific areas, but also utilize your strengths in as many ways as possible. It won’t only be helpful for this project, but future volunteer abroad projects, too.
So, great. The kids at the project love your creative games the best. You don’t need to go around bragging about it. Instead, use your strengths to help make a better volunteer experience for everyone.
Maybe there’s another volunteer who struggles to come up with great games – try planning activities together. Showing you’re a team player makes for a happy environment for all. Besides, you’re here to show good faith, right?
Immerse Yourself in Culture
Sure, you’re probably spending a lot of time with international folk. But you’re all here to work alongside and serve the locals. It would make your job easier, and way more interesting, if you got to know them, too. It might be the reason why your games at the after school aren’t working.
Learning about a people’s history and daily lives will broaden your perspective of life. Though we’re all the same in many ways, it’s our unique cultures that make us so curious. While volunteering abroad, try to live your life as if you’re from there, too. It’s sure to help you to make a more profound impact.
Rest & Recharge
When you’re not volunteering, you’re probably climbing mountains and volcanoes, surfing waves, and ziplining through jungles. But the reality is that volunteering is work. And when you don’t take time to rest, you can put yourself in danger of burning out.
You want to maximize your vacation, too, but be conscious about what you need to stay productive. Take it into consideration before booking just one-week for volunteering abroad. It might be helpful to extend your trip so you can focus on work and play equally.
You’re choosing to volunteer because you want to do something positive. Don’t waste your chance! Choose the right program, set goals, and put your best foot forward while volunteering abroad.