Everything you need to know about volunteering and a step-by-step guide to live your first volunteer experience!

Travel is already an incredible way to transform yourself, but doing volunteer work during a trip in your own country or in another one makes this experience even more powerful, for both volunteers and those who receive help.

In this article, we will be sharing what volunteering means, why it is important, what are the types of volunteer work you can do and the benefits you get from it. Stick with us and even find the volunteer opportunity that suits you best!

What is volunteering and why is it important?

What is volunteering?

Volunteering is an action focused on social and collective welfare. It’s an activity based on civic, cultural, educational, scientific, recreational, or assistance goals. Bear in mind that volunteering isn’t a lucrative activity, neither for those that work nor for those who receive help.

Why is volunteering important?

Volunteering helps to mitigate problems that affect our community, such as social inequality, violence, climate change, and others. This is a way to donate our precious time to people and causes that need help.
Beyond that, it’s a tool that helps us to become a better person. Through volunteering, we can expand our knowledge about the world and develop empathy, recognizing necessities that are bigger than our own individuality.

Where can I do volunteer work?

You can volunteer anywhere! It can be near where you live or even in a country on the other side of the Earth. There are platforms that concentrate social projects all over the word, like Worldpackers, for example.

How long does one volunteer work last?

There isn’t a set time. The volunteer work can be a short activity that lasts only a couple of hours, such as a beach cleanup. It can last for a couple of weeks in a special project. Or it can even be a recurrent activity that lasts many years, in case you find a cause that you love that much.

When is the international volunteer day and the volunteer appreciation week?

The International Volunteer Day is celebrated on December 5th. This is the date set by the United Nations in 1985. In the USA, they celebrate the National Volunteer Week on the third week of April each year.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

The first benefit of volunteering is the real help that we are offering. Volunteering is a way for us to be able to look beyond our busy lives.

The volunteering work is, without any doubt, a win-win situation for both parties, those who receive help and those who donate. For the volunteers, some of the gains are:

Volunteers during a beach clean-up organized by Worldpackers in Brazil
Volunteers during a beach clean-up organized by Worldpackers
Photo: Lucas Bianque

– A Transforming Experience

When we are open to social and environmental causes, we can see and understand realities that we are previously unaware of. I confess that it can even be a delicate and emotional process depending on the type of volunteer work you are doing, especially in volunteering with vulnerable people. But it is also something transformative and satisfying.

It is undoubtedly a self-growth process, and when you finish this work, you will not be the same person as when you came in.

– Development of new skills

In volunteer opportunities, people are usually more open and patient to teach us, which makes it an incredible way for us to exchange knowledge and to develop new skills. But, of course, the learning can vary depending on the project and your predisposition:

  • Learn how to build an eco-home;
  • Start an organic garden;
  • Learn about sustainability;
  • Get to know some self-awareness tools;
  • Develop creativity;
  • Be capable to work in a group of people;
  • Social management skills.

Those up there are just some examples. The more engaged and curious you are, the more competencies you can develop.

– Travel 

A lot of volunteer work opportunities help us to travel, adding one good thing to another. This type of volunteer work is also an option to travel on a budget. During your days off, you can take advantage to get to know the region.

– Resume

Volunteer work, nowadays, is practically an obligatory item in your resume. Companies understand that this is an excellent way to develop collective consciousness, responsibility, and leadership.

Types of volunteer work

Here are some volunteer work examples:

Assistance - One of the types of volunteer work
Photo: Kampus Production, Pexels

1) Social work

This may be the oldest and more well-known volunteer work. It consists of meeting the needs of people in vulnerable situations.

Examples: Receiving victims of violence, donating clothes and food, emotional support during/after some disaster, etc.

2) Community

Here, we also target support for people, but it is usually something that makes a collective impact.

Examples: Implementation of a public garden, creation of some service to the community, among others.

3) Environment

All the environmental volunteer opportunities connected with nature, including animal shelters.

Examples: Recovering a degraded area, putting out fires, animal rescue, cleaning rivers and seas, planting trees, etc.

4) Activist

Focus on social actions linked to activism. Usually, you can connect with NGOs and movements that fight for the desired cause.

Examples: Human rights, anti-racist struggle, women’s protection, children’s safety.

5) Educative

Teaching a subject or sharing specific knowledge. There is no age limit, and it can be for young children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly.

Examples: You can teach math, languages, some physical activity, computing, crafts, sustainability, etc.

6) Online

Online volunteer work has gained a lot of momentum since the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is usually linked to educational projects, but it can also fit in with welfare work, support for activist groups, or even administrative activities that you can do remotely.

Examples: Psychological care, educational classes, NGO social media management, among others.

7) Travel

Traveling as a volunteer gained the name of volunteerism, and this is one of the ways to practice sustainable tourism. You can travel abroad as an exchange student seeking to learn a new language and also use this time to support a cause. Or, you can travel with the focus of immersing yourself into a new culture while contributing to the community that lives there.

Where to volunteer

Here are some websites where you can find and apply for volunteer work opportunities:

TravelCommunity Online Activist Environment EducativeSocial Work
WorldpackersPeace CorposTranslator Without BordersUnicefGreenpeace The Art Of LivingRed Cross
WorkawayAmericorpsONUActionaidPawsGo OverseasFraternity Without Borders
WWOOFTechoCatcha FireTrans Lifeline Best FriendsUnited PlanetYMCA
Rotary InternationalFeeding America Un VolunteersBig Brothers
Big Sisters
Marine LifeGo EcoInternational Medical Relief
Where to do volunteer work

We are now volunteering through Worldpackers. Check out our review.

Worldpackers discount code

How to start volunteering

why volunteering is important
Photo: cottonbro, Pexels

1) Think about what you can offer.

Although volunteer work has a substantial personal gain, we need to keep in mind that we are doing it to help those who need it the most. Think about your goal and how you can contribute to it.

2) Determine your volunteer work style

It is better if the work is aligned with your values and desires. After all, if you choose a project that doesn’t resonate with what you believe in, the experience won’t be great.

3) Organize your agenda and define the location

Find out how much time you have available for the work and for the entire trip itself. From here, you can define the best location for your experience. Also, make sure you inform the project about your availability in order to guarantee that expectations and timelines are aligned.

4) Choose the right platform or project

With these three previous points in mind, you are ready to define which project is right for you. We use and recommend Worldpackers for the variety of initiatives and the easy navigation.

Are you looking for a Worldpackers promo code? We’ve got you a US$10 discount code.

How to find an ethical and responsible volunteer work

It’s crucial to keep in mind that volunteer work has become a way to profit and make political maneuvers in some places. Therefore, we need to be careful and attentive when looking for the place that we are going to volunteer.

Here are some tips to help you not to fall into a trap:

  • Avoid orphanages, especially abroad. They have become a big “profit sector”, harming many children.
  • Ask to talk to someone in charge before you sign up to clear up all your doubts.
  • Pay attention to the transparency and depth of information that is made available.
  • Once you are in the project, talk to its beneficiaries to understand if the institution is really serious.
  • Keep in mind that dialogue is the best way to volunteer in harmony.

And of course, if you become aware of any irregular activity, report it!

Volunteer work experiences that I have lived

Here are some examples of volunteering that I have done. Maybe some of them will inspire you to do some good too 🥰:

  • 2010 – Taking care of children in a shelter in my city;
  • 2011 – Help in organizing an event at a church;
  • 2013 – Visits in a nursing home;
  • 2018 – Lecture on professional career for high school students at a public school;
  • 2019 – Helping course facilitators at the NGO The Art of Living Foundation in Brazil.
  • 2021 – Beach cleaning up with Worldpackers.

Volunteering is a beautiful exercise of citizenship and collectivity. It can be the best way to get to know the social issues that we still need to work on as a society.

Besides volunteering, it is worth reflecting on what we are doing on a daily basis to solve these issues. These are some points to think about:

  • How do you take care of nature?
  • Are you helping to promote equality in your work?
  • How do you support the advancement of groups that are now oppressed?
  • What are your political choices?

Do volunteer, but remember to do good in your everyday life!😉

Now that you know more about what volunteer work is and how it works, I hope you are inspired and ready to find the opportunity that is right for you!

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