Here at Justifi, one of the central parts of all of our programs is partnering with local organizations within the area we head out to. This helps to make each of our projects sustainable as well as a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved, as they are able to provide wisdom about the community itself. With knowledge about the population, the existing infrastructure and the traditions of the area, partnering up with local organizations allows us to immerse in the culture and create meaningful and sustainable relationships.
We make it a top priority to choose the right partner organization by knowing the various strengths of our group members, budgets per program, and of course making sure it’s a good cultural fit for what we do.
One of the many benefits that we reap from doing this is that often times we get to work with organizations that don’t typically take on volunteers. What helps to set us apart and allows us to do this is that we come with the necessary resources, we completely manage the team of volunteers, build relationships and plan for months in advance to help ensure our projects are well focused to make a real difference within a short amount of time.
However, we understand and appreciate the fact that not everyone can join us on one of our trips. Taking the time off of work, budget reasons, or conflicting dates could be factors in not being able to join in on a trip. If that sounds like you and you may be thinking about volunteering somewhere else on your own, consider the following pieces of advice on how to get started doing just that…
Before Your Start Looking for Partner Organizations:
Ask Yourself: What time and energy are you looking to commit?
How much time do you have to set aside from your everyday life and routines and maybe take off of work in order to volunteer? Do you have the time? The timing of things is an extremely big factor to most and it truly does affect the amount of options you have. Typically, the longer you commit to, the more opportunities there are and the better the chances of finding something that intrigues you as well.
Ask Yourself: What issues are important to you?
Have you always been passionate about the welfare of animals? Maybe you care about education or sustainable living? Think about it and try to narrow down your focus to specific causes that have are of most interest to you. From there, you can begin a search in your destination area that matches your specific interests.
Ask Yourself: What specific skills do you offer?
Depending on the organization or community you are interested in, you may find that they tend to be extremely busy and may even receive multiple inquiries a week for people hoping to volunteer with them.
It's an unfortunate reality for many small organizations that taking on volunteers is a challenge that requires planning, management, and time commitment from the organizations core staff. So if you really want to make a difference and make your visit as convenient as possible for your host organization, think about exactly what you'd like to do and be specific on what exactly you can offer them. Are you good at crafts? Do you know how to build a bamboo fence? Maybe you love cooking and cleaning? Whatever you know you can contribute and offer, tell them that and let them know the specifics on when you can come, what you can do and make it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
Tips for Finding Great Organizations
Simply Use Google
As with any other research you conduct, Google is your best friend in this case too. Type in ‘volunteer’ and place you would like to head to. Chances are, something will come up within the first page or two that will spark your interest and typically are ones that are well established and can accommodate you. The one negative thing, however, is that sometimes these are also bigger and a bit more ‘structured’ and less needy than others out there that you could help. If you are hoping to volunteer for a shorter amount of time, these may be just the right fit for you.
Search for Specialty Networks
With English as one of the most highly sought after languages to be learned and plenty of countries with mass populations of both children and adult not being given the opportunity to learn it, the demand for English teachers is often extremely high. There are a ton of organizations out there that can help you connect with communities who are in need of English teachers and in turn, you will find that the longer you stay, the more you will get out of it and the biggest difference you will make.
If teaching isn’t quite your thing, then consider helping out on a farm through an organization like WWOOF where you will work in exchange for food and accommodation. Not a fan of farms or teaching? Maybe helping out in a hostel for a month or so checking people in and out, cleaning and organizing events may just be the thing for you!
Use Social Networks
Chances are, if you find an organization during your Google search, they have got a Facebook page where you will be able to check out the reviews, comments and personal posts and pictures of people that have volunteered through them. This also offers you a better look into a more emotional aspect of the organization as websites can often times (not always) offer as much helpful information as their Facebook pages do. Scroll through what they have there and chances are, you will get a much better idea of what the organization has to offer.
Just Show Up & Ask Around
If you are reading this and are already in the middle of an adventure abroad and are contemplating possible volunteer opportunities, then ask around at local cafes, restaurants and shops! You never know if they are being ran by someone who could point you in the right direction or if they have a bulletin board with the exact flyer that may just be right for you. Talking to locals and connecting with people personally is one of the best ways to get helpful information that could bring about new opportunities and ideas.
Note – A Word of Caution
Unfortunately, there are a lot of organizations out there that don’t exactly have the best intentions when it comes to volunteers helping out in their communities. With money as the main object in mind, these places often times leverage the needs of a disadvantaged population to attract both sympathy and profit.
We strongly advise that although helping out at places like orphanages and with victims of abuse does sound good in and of itself, visiting only for a short amount of time in either one may not be what's needed for the population you're trying to help. Children in these places need stable relationships and proper care in order to grow and thrive and if your trip is a short one, it's unlikely you'll be able to offer them the support they need.