The amount of joy, experience, and life-changing moments that you get out of volunteering are directly proportional to the effort, dedication and hard-work that you put in. You get out what you put in – it’s as simple as that!
When choosing a volunteering organization to travel with, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions: how is your volunteer fee used, what is your contribution, is the volunteer work sustainable, what are the long term goals of the project, do they promote responsible volunteering, are the projects created with input from the host community?
All reputable organisations should have clear answers to your questions and should make you feel confident in your choice.
Make sure that you not only research the organisation you’re travelling with and read testimonials and reviews from alumni both on host organisations’ websites and on external review sites like GoAbroad.com or GoOverseas.com, but you also do a bit of reading about the place you’re visiting and the project work you’ll be doing.
At African Impact we have an ambassador program made up of alumni who are happy to chat to you about their experience first hand!
The project teams have a wealth of knowledge and have been doing this work for several years. Listen to them, learn from them and then use your newfound understanding to go out there and effect positive change. Volunteering can be a rollercoaster of emotions and by taking it all in during your first days you’ll hopefully avoid a sense of helplessness a lot of volunteers feel during their first week.
Don’t hold back on experiencing everything you can. If you’re offered local food, eat it; if the music moves you, dance. Whether it’s sticking your hand in an elephant’s mouth or taking on teaching a large group of kids – give it everything you have. Africa is also the adrenaline-junkie’s ultimate playground and your trip will give you plenty of chances to overcome your fears as you bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge, or white water raft on the Zambezi!
When you’re volunteering, take time to look around at the people who surround you. It’s likely you will never be together like this again (although sometimes there are African Impact reunions in far-away lands!). Take advantage of this – talk through your experiences, fears and reservations about returning home. No one will understand you as much as the person sharing the bunk beside you.
Sometimes your volunteer activities can differ from the information in your pre-departure pack. That’s because we are responding to a need in the community and want to give help where it’s most needed. Be flexible and go with the flow, you’ll still get to experience everything you came for. Respect that the volunteer coordinators and project managers have tough jobs and are there to help you and guide you through your volunteering journey.
If you want to stay involved in helping our projects after you have returned home, you can become an African Impact Ambassador. This means you effectively become part of our extended team and help us actively recruit volunteers abroad or raise awareness for our charities while being rewarded with discounts on future projects or even a free placement! Read more on our ambassador program here.
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Volunteering has a way of bringing out the best in you. Personal growth, making a difference in another person’s life, and seeing the world all contribute to a newfound lease on life! Bask in it, enjoy it, and try and remember that feeling after you’ve left.