While you're on placement
10 tips for being a valued volunteer
- Be a sponge – listen to your host organisation and the local community. They are the experts!
- Bring a positive attitude.
- Be respectful of cultural differences and traditions.
- Learn before you do – research your host organisation, the country and culture before you go, and keep learning when you get there.
- Do the work that is valuable to the organisation, not just the work that is the most fun.
- Be flexible and open to change. Go with the flow – sometimes your work might change based on the needs of the organisation.
- Don’t take photos of children and make sure you gain informed consent before taking a photo of an adult.
- Make sure your social media challenges stereotypes and portrays the local community with dignity.
- Make the most of your placement - build relationships with the people you are working with, explore your surroundings, try new things and challenge yourself to set outside comfort zone!
- Keep learning and stay involved when you get home. Hopefully your time away inspires you to educate yourself and act on the issues impacting your local and global community.
Expect the unexpected: The stages of culture shock
Adjusting to your placement and new enviroment is a bit of rollercoaster – initially everything is new exciting and interesting, but after a while, even little differences can become jarring.
You might feel frustrated and homesick - which is completely normal and can happen to even the most seasoned traveller. Over time you will begin to develop strategies to adjust to your new environment, you will make friends and you may never want to leave!
When you arrive home you might think that you will slip straight back into your life, but you might find this harder than expected. This is called REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK – yes, it’s a thing, and it is very common. You might have trouble readjusting and relating to friends and family about your experience – especially if you have spent time in challenging environments while abroad.
The best thing you can do is to talk to friends and family or a health care professional about how you are feeling – don’t bottle it up, and don’t isolate yourself.
Image credit: Youth Are Awesome
Appropriate use of social media
Image credit: Radi-Aid
Stop before you Snap! Think before you Tweet!
Social media can perpetuate stereotypes, or, it can be used to unify, clarify and create nuanced descriptions of the complex world we live in.
Follow this checklist when using social media during your volunteer placement:
Checklist before you post on social media:
- Ask yourself: "What is my intention with sharing this post?"
- Gain informed consent from the person in the picture and/or the caretaker. If you can't explain why you are taking the photo, find a translator.
- Know the name and background of the people portrayed.
- Offer the person in the photo, a copy.
- Avoid Sweeping and simplified generalisations, include informative text with names, place etc.
- Be respectful of different cultures and traditions.
- Ask yourself: "Would I have appreciated being portrayed in the same manner?"
- Avoid sensitive, vulnerable situations and locations such as hospitals and health clinics.
- Don't portray yourself as the hero in the story conveyed.
- Challenge the perceptions; bring down the stereotypes!
Checklist by Radi-Aid