A few weeks ago, I electronically penned a post regarding how just by changing our perspective and expectations on volunteering would allow all that wanted to volunteer, to act on it.
To quickly recap, seemingly there are a few barriers to volunteering.
The first, where to start?
It’s not easy to find placement. This makes sense, there are plenty of people out there that work in the industry for a living. It makes sense that these placements are quickly taken by those educated and trained in charitable and NGO related work.
Secondly, some volunteer organisations, for example Volunteer World, help you volunteer for a fee. Thus it costs money, and yes some, if not all of the money goes to the charity you are helping. Unfortunately, some can be fraudulent, so pick carefully. Just how helpful these programs are is debatable, however, if you are looking for a paid experience in what its like to work for a Charity or NGO then, as long you choose carefully, it’s one way to go about ‘volunteering’.
Thirdly, it takes time. Not all of us have the time it takes to volunteer, and that’s ok. Volunteering, especially with kids, means its important to put in 6 months to a year to make the effort worthwhile for all parties.
Giving up significant chunks of time rules out those of us who have passed the ripe old years of 25 and now find ourselves working year round with four weeks holiday and don’t have the elastic lifestyle we once had.
So, how can you volunteer without giving up huge chunks of time?
Volunteering doesn’t have to mean having your feet on the ground. It can mean any way of helping to create awareness, like a blog post, or tweet, or a signing a petition.
One thing we’re big on at MORE MAKES MERRY is giving to already established NGO’s or Charities, for example, if you’re in Cambodia, you can buy handcrafts, or eat at restaurants run by Friends International. While it not might not feel like much, and while this might sound like some esoteric-hippy speak, your small actions help change attitudes and actions over time on a greater scale.
Time is key. It’s the one thing everyone firmly understands the value of. Education is equally as important, for all of us, travellers and hosts alike.
If you want to volunteer without spending all your time and still make a difference, take a little time, to learn a little more.
Learn how as a traveller / tourist you impact the destinations you visit in three ways. You get to choose if your impact is positive or negative.
We impact destinations in these broad ways.
Broadly, by spending money in a country on local services for example, you can aid it by bolstering its economy. However if you go to Indonesia and eat at a Mac Donald’s, then the money you spend leaks out of the country.
Using anything too much is going to wear it out. The environment of a destination is no exception. More on that next time. For now, careful where you walk and use less plastic.
Globalisation. Heard of it? I’m sure you have. Once we all travelled to other countries in search of new cultures, food and climates. Now, more often than not, tourists crave McDonalds, air-conditioning and other slices of home styled comfort. The issue of these demands is that it dilutes the culture of a destination and alters the supply of local goods, which inevitably negatively impacts, without increased education for locals, the workforce.
So step one of ‘How To Volunteer When You Can’t Volunteer’, is to acknowledge the impacts of tourism and to apply them to your trip next time you travel.
Part 2, coming soon.
Thanks for reading,
(Photographs from Kingston Guatemala)