Lesson 9: Which skills and background do I need at my project?
Lesson 9 Chapter 2
We've got some tips for you!
You will need different skills and background depending on the type of project where you are going to volunteer. Click on the type of project where you are going to volunteer to get some tips!
Going to work on an educational project, like a school or other educational center?
We have some tips for you!
Tips for when you DON'T have an educational background:
You can assist teachers in their class. Be clear and honest in advance about the fact that you don't have an educational background.
It often happens to volunteers that they are suddenly left alone in front of a classroom. So be prepared!
Make sure you are informed before starting volunteer work at an educational project. For example: find out in advance which age of children you will teach and find some activities that suit the age group.
Ask a teacher in your home country for some activities or learning materials. Or try arranging a small internship and get a better understanding of teaching methods. Or watch some videos on youtube. Anything that can help you to get more ideas for activities in class.
Tips for when you DO have an educational background:
You probably already have the skills and professional background you need. However, be aware that the teaching methods can be quite different in another culture. Not everything you do in the class in your home country might work out the same in another culture. Think of how you could adapt an activity to better suit local circumstances.
It is likely that you do not have all the materials available like back home. Think of teaching methods in which you don’t need a lot of materials or where you can use locally available materials.
Are you a nurse, a doctor, a physical therapist or some other kind of medical practitioner in your home country or learning to become one? Great, you probably already (partly) have the skills and professional background you need as a volunteer on a medical project. Take into account the following tips:
Working in a medical project in a developing country can be very challenging. You might have to deal with illnesses that are not common in your home country. Do some research on the illnesses before leaving for your volunteer work.
It is possible that you will not always have all the materials you need ready available for you. Think about how you can do your work without it or look for methods you can use in replacement of the materials. It could be interesting to look for some documentaries about doctors in the tropics.
The type of treatment being chosen for a patient might depend on considerations of costs and what a patient can afford. It is, therefore, wise to consider in advance what you would do in a situation where a patient cannot afford treatment. Are you willing to make a contribution with your own money? If you do, what will happen with the expectations of the people you work with?
If you are still learning to become a medical practitioner be clear about what you have and have not learned. With this you can avoid being asked to do things you have not learned. Be aware that you can put patients at risk if you undertake medical actions which you have not learned to do!
This is a very broad category of projects. When speaking about social projects, you can for example think of a community project, sports projects or childcare project.
Read our tips about these kind of projects:
Be aware that community based projects varies from country to country. In some developing countries there may not be a clear structure on a lot of projects. This may appear to be chaotic to some volunteers, especially if you come from a background in which structure is very important. Focussing on making changes to this will likely be counter-productive.
Often times, volunteers do not have experience with working with community based groups, for example children and the elderly. It is, important to be informed about the projects you are undertaking and what is expected of you. Ensure that the project you are undertaking is contributing to the greater good of the community.
Are you going to work with children? There is a lot of criticism on working with children as a volunteer in developing countries. Read some news articles about it to get yourself informed, so that you can make a positive impact and avoid doing any harm. And be sure to check out the chapter about attachment in this e-learning.
Many volunteers work in construction projects. Building a well, building a school or a home for a family? Or to paint some walls? It might not seem hard, but be careful if you do not have experience with it. The following should be considered when you decide to do construction projects:
If you are going to do construction work, think about how you can do it in a sustainable way. Consider if it is really up to you to do the building. Furthermore, you might take away a potential job from a local resident. Especially if you are with a group of volunteers, you might take away opportunities for local constructors.
Check if the work you are going to do is really going to be beneficial for the local community. It has been found that some volunteer projects in construction were set up mainly to give volunteers a job to do. The problem with this is that volunteers who don’t have a background in construction may build something which has to be rebuild after they leave. This has happened a lot, so be careful before you choose. Read for example this article about what can happen in construction projects
It is likely that you do not have much experience with this kind of project in your home country. Some tips for working in this kind of project:
Find out the main aims and objectives of the project and how the project started. Some projects have been found to be started mainly for volunteers. For example, A project in which you take care of lion cubs, could be just focussed on attracting volunteers instead of wildlife conservation. It has even been found that some of the lions end up in trophy hunt!
Working on a project for nature conservation, ecology or climate resilience? Outweigh the benefits against the costs. If you have to travel far to work on the project, consider that your flight to the destination has a significantly bigger effect on the climate. Think carefully about what skills or knowledge you can offer to the project.