February 24, 2013 @ 12:52 pm - posted by Robert

Many of us reach a point in our lives where donating a few pounds to a good cause, whilst always helpful, simply doesn’t seem enough. It is often the hands-on change that many of us want to make and this requires a different type of commitment. During our Career Break or Sabbatical leave is an excellent time to volunteer our skills.

Volunteering in a foreign country

If you are the type of person not afraid to get your hands dirty for a good cause, then there are certainly many charities to choose from but before you book your flight and head off to change the world on your Career Break or Sabbatical leave, you would do well to consider these simple practical tips.

Ten Important Volunteer Tips to Consider for your Career Break or Sabbatical Leave,

1: Be Specific about Your Project

Motivated people often want to change the world in one sweeping gesture. However, a scatter shot serves no one well; choosing one cause to commit your time and effort to is how change is achieved. So focus on finding that one project that is near and dear to your heart. Do not think of it as neglecting other causes. Think of it as changing the world, one cause at a time.

2: Locate Different Organisations

When researching your cause, regardless of what it is, you will also find that there are quite a few charitable organisations, private and public, assisting in that area. So the first goal is to locate a few different credible organisations that share your sentiment. E.g.: List a selection of children-based organisations for children’s humanitarian work, and then narrow the field down from there.

3: Research the Organisation

Once you have located a few worthy organisations that you may want to work with, it is time to research them in more detail. You are looking for areas of operations, overall reputation and you are also looking for what these charities need most, i.e. manpower or type of skills. The goal here is to match you to the best charity to ensure your work really does make a difference.

4: Make Sure You’re fit for the task

Charity work for conservationUnfortunately, whilst you may have the drive to get out in the field, you may not be physically suited. On-location humanitarian or conservation work can be extremely taxing so you need to be in good health and in good shape.

5: Make Sure You’re Knowledgeable

Knowledge is important when volunteering your time. E.g.: If you are planning to volunteer in wildlife conservation, it is best to actually know about the area, the specific wildlife and their threats. Far too often people’s hearts are larger than their brains, so to speak, and they end up out in the field without a clue as to their environment. The more you know about the area the happier your volunteering time will be.

6: Never Settle

Although your initial thought may be that every charity is more than willing to accept help from wherever they can get it, it is actually not that easy to participate with top charities. There may not be room for you at the moment, and the charity may instead ask for a monetary donation or may direct you to another cause. If you truly wish to make a change, do not settle to appease your conscience. Stay with your cause and do what you can to help.

7: Be Realistic about the Project

Perhaps the most practical tip in the list, it is very important that you understand the commitment you are making. Packing up and leaving just because you get tired or frustrated is not only counter productive to the charity, but it may be out of the question if you are volunteering abroad. So before you get in over your head, realise the commitment.

8: Remember Your Responsibilities

Famous charitable figures, like Sam Childers, literally gave up their lives to help others. While this type of commitment served African children well, another family, Childers’ family, was nearly lost back home. It is important to remember that your main responsibility is to yourself and to your family. You have to be safe and responsible while volunteering. You want to do what you can, but it cannot be at the expense of your health, your security, or of your family.

9: Figure Out Tax and Insurance Implications

This is a complicated topic for many people, whether you are on salary and are having it sent to another country, or if you have different insurance questions about filing claims, etc. – the practical thing to do here is to speak to an expert about your financial situation, your insurance situation, and the implications you may face while travelling abroad.

10: Remember Your Purpose

The fact of the matter is that charitable giving is often just as much about ourselves as it is the cause. Giving your time and working to make a change makes us feel good about ourselves. However, it touches other lives in ways far more profound than we can ever comprehend. So when you are volunteering, remember the cause – remember your purpose for doing this.

The truth about volunteering is that there are many more areas of interest not covered here. However, implementing this useful information will help you to get on the right track when volunteering.

About Robert

Robert was born with a Wonderlust and nothing excites him more than travel. He recently spent time living in Vietnam teaching English. Upon his return, he and Liz set up CareerBreak360 to help others achieve their Career Break goals.

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