Interested in Volunteering?

My buddy, Mira, asked me where he should get started if he wanted to go on a volunteer trip somewhere so I thought I'd put together a little post about that.

First of all, I think it's great to think about whether you want to go out of the country or help someone right in your own country. There are plenty of organizations and people who need your help in all areas of the globe. Some people like to contribute at home. Some like to travel and experience other cultures.

A GREAT place to start is VolunteerMatch. You can specify what kind of volunteer work you like to do - human rights, animals, arts & culture, etc. and they'll match you with organizations in your area who need that. There are even some opportunities for making a difference globally right from your home as a virtual volunteer.

So, if you want to travel and also do some volunteer work, you could just start asking around to your network to see who's done something like that before. Chances are you already know someone who's gone on a trip with Habitat for Humanity or Doctors Without Borders or maybe even a Christian missionary trip.

If your friend network doesn't turn up any good ideas, you can search Voluntourism sites to see if they have upcoming trips they sponsor. I like www.voluntourism.org/. They have interesting articles and papers about the PITFALLS of voluntourism. This is really great to know about because apparently studies show that when groups of foreigners come through some areas just to pop in and take photos with the local people and children, it harms them more than helps them in many ways.

You'll want to do your research on any organization you encounter that leads volunteer + tourism trips. Be sure that the money is going where they say it is. You can often find information and reviews online by Googling them. If you find nothing at all, I'd be skeptical, unless you personally know the people leading the trip.

This summer I'm going to Kenya with the Unstoppable Foundation and Cynthia Kersey. I'm really excited about it and would love some company if you want to consider going! The trip is June 21 - 29.

Another organization that I know personally is the Gracias Foundation. They have connections with orphanages around the world and can place you in various locations to serve as a volunteer. There are often minimum stays of 3 weeks or more, and that is for a good reason. As I said above, there can be harm to the people you are serving by just popping in for a few days and then leaving, especially the children. The Gracias Foundation is committed to creating lasting relationships with the orphanages they serve.

I'd love to hear from you about other organizations you know about and can recommend. Please post a comment below and let's start sharing all of the knowlege around this with each other.

Lots of love
Kim