Volunteering can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. You will meet new people and see new places while giving back to communities who need it the most. But it can be difficult as a young volunteer to know what is appropriate to do and say around the people you are volunteering with. You will also need to be aware of the cultural differences of the country you will be volunteering in.
You will need to understand the causes of malnutrition and how this can affect a community. This will get you will be one step closer to understanding how to act while volunteering. Below are some tips on what not to do.
Don’t leave after a short period
Volunteering in places where you will see first-hand the symptoms of malnutrition can be daunting as a student. But it is important not to simply leave after one week, you should try to stay for the duration of your volunteering programme.
This is because, not only will you be gaining more from a longer experience, but you will be able to help with more. For example, you will be able to spend time counselling Rohingya refugees once you have gotten over the initial shock at the conditions. By not leaving too soon, you might be able to make a real difference in the lives of the people you are helping and you will gain some much-needed life experience.
Don’t wear clothing that is inappropriate or unnecessary
It is important to take into account the culture of the country or continent you are volunteering in. This will affect what you can and cannot (and should not) wear on a daily basis, so you should be sure to ask the volunteering organisation for some advice on clothing options.
Aside from the cultural elements, it would be distasteful to wear designer clothing to an impoverished area. And it would also be highly impractical. You should rather wear clothing that you do not mind getting dirty or damaged. Don’t wear an expensive t-shirt or pair of jeans into an area that has been hit by a disaster, especially if you are going to be helping to rebuild houses. Rather opt for comfortable, simple clothing that covers your legs, arms and shoulders (depending on the culture of the area).
Don’t go in without a motive
Volunteering as a student can be a fun and exciting time. It can also be daunting, as you will see the effects of malnutrition on people who you are trying to help. But in order to make your experience more fruitful for everyone involved, you will need to have a clear motive for volunteering.
Think carefully about your reasons for volunteering and take your expectations into account. Signing up to volunteer without a clear motive or goal will make the experience feel muddled. You will not be sure of what, exactly, you want to do in the volunteering programme and you will not be able to offer the right skills for the right role. Draw up a list of what you want to give to the volunteering programme and what you want to get out of it. This will help immensely when trying to figure out your motive for volunteering.
Don’t forget your place
When volunteering, it is important to remember that you are a guest within a community. You have chosen to offer your help to them and they are allowing you to live among them and experience their culture.
You will need to be respectful of the community you are helping and staying in. This means asking for explanations of their traditions and taking note of their beliefs. Remember that you are not there to judge them but offer help and assistance in a time of need. This could be anything from assisting with fundraising, explaining the symptoms of malnutrition, teaching communities or helping to rebuild houses of Rohingya refugees. Whatever your duty, remember to do it with respect and consideration.
Don’t be impatient
As a volunteer, you will need to become used to a pace of life that is different to your own. And this might mean that you have to wait for things to be done at a slower pace than you are used to. It is important not to become impatient and remember that you are there to help and to learn.
A slower pace also gives you time to truly take in your surroundings and learn about a new culture. You will need to practice patience and understanding, as moving at a slower pace is often a cultural issue. Be sure to research the country you will be going to and ensure that you understand the laws, regulations and customs in order to have the best volunteering experience possible.