There are many reasons why people choose to volunteer; chances are you already know your motivation. It’s a great way to experience other cultures and learn a language. You may be highly committed to the goals of the organisation you want to work with. Perhaps you would like to contribute and cannot afford a monetary donation. Or you feel privileged by the education and opportunities offered in developed countries and would like to share your skills or redress the balance.
As well as altruistic motivation, volunteering can also open up career opportunities and give you world class work experience. For many independent travellers, volunteering is a chance to get off the road for a while and gain a more in depth experience of a country.
I can tell you why I became a volunteer, I wanted to feel useful. Simply that. Of course the fact that it was an opportunity to live and work in an exotic location with a great climate, didn’t hurt either.
So how has it worked it? I definitely feel useful although at times I feel conflicted about being part of the Aid world, which I increasingly see as a dirty industry. I’m getting some great experience from a work perspective although at times I wonder about how valid it is to be successful given that I have a Masters degree in a continent where most people have not even finished secondary school.
If you decide to become a volunteer, please, avoid the “saint syndrome”. Thankfully, I haven’t seen it often, but there are some volunteers who tend to think that they are the bees knees because they volunteer. Remember that you are a volunteer because it is what fulfils YOU. It does not make you in anyway superior to a Wall Street trader, your bank manager or the UN ex-pat on 100k a year!