Lesson 9: Which skills and professional background do I need at my project?
Lesson 9 Chapter 2
We've got some tips for you!
You will need different skills and professional background depending on the type of project you are going to volunteer at. Click on the type of project you are going to volunteer at, to get some tips!
Going to work on an educational project, like a school or other educational centre?
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. This might happen to you as well. Make sure you discuss this in advance with the teacher in case it happens.
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 will not have the same materials available there, as in your home country. Think of teaching methods for which you don’t need a lot of materials or you can use materials which are locally available.
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 to be 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 readily available for you. Think about how you can do your work without them, or look for methods you can use to replace these 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 cannot yet do. Be aware that you can put patients at risk if you undertake medical actions which you have not yet been trained to do!
This is a very broad category of projects. When speaking about social projects, you can for example think of community projects, sports projects or childcare projects.
Read our tips about these kind of projects:
Be aware that community based projects vary 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 existing ways of work will likely be counter-productive.
Some 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 helping is contributing to the greater good of the community.
Are you going to work with children? There is a lot of criticism about 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 at construction projects. Building a well, building a school or a home for a family? Or painting some walls? It might not seem hard, but be careful if you do not have the necessary experience. 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 to 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 rebuilt after they leave. This has happened a lot, so be careful before you choose. Read for example this article about what can happen at 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 at 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 to attract volunteers and their money. For example, A project in which you take care of lion cubs, could be just focussed on attracting volunteers instead of on wildlife conservation. We heard that some of the lions even ended up as part of a trophy hunt!
Working on a project for nature conservation, ecology or climate resilience? Weigh 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 have to offer the project.