Being an international volunteer is a great experience that can equip you with new skills (along with sharpened current ones). However, if you’ve heard any negative stories about volunteering abroad lately, then chances are, you might’ve run into several myths that you didn’t even know were myths.
But not to worry! In this article, we’ll look at 7 of the most common myths about volunteering abroad:
1. Volunteers Take Jobs Away From Locals
“While volunteering abroad is considered free labour, it’s not hurting local employment,” says Alexander Short, a lifestyle writer at UK Top Writers and Best British Essays. “Many international volunteer programmes won’t just welcome people from outside the country; they’ll also take local volunteers in other capacities.” Ethical volunteer programmes will also aim to employee locals for the project wherever possible.
In such volunteering programmes (especially those working with children), volunteers will work with and assist the permanent local staff on approved tasks. Therefore, local staff aren’t being “replaced,” as one might speculate.
2. You Have To Be [Insert] Years Old To Volunteer
Believe it or not, volunteering isn’t just for younger people, or just for college students. Volunteers who offer their services abroad come from many age groups. Besides, international volunteering organizations are much more concerned with your application and attitude than how old you are.
3. Language Barrier Is An Issue When Volunteering Abroad
Just because you’re going to a foreign country, doesn’t mean that you HAVE to speak their language. There are many other ways to communicate with locals; such as the universal language of handshakes, smiles, and displays of emotion. And, some locals might be shy towards you, until they’re comfortable enough to open up and speak more. It is definitely worth trying to learn a few basics of the language though. And, volunteering offers the perfect chance to practice!
4. Every Volunteer Project Is About Children In Developing Countries
While children are centre-stage in many projects, volunteer opportunities in foreign countries focus on other things, such as:
- The environment
- Sporting events, etc.
There are other causes to consider, if caring for or working with children isn’t your thing. The point it, volunteering is – and should be – you willing to give time to help a certain cause.
5. You Have To Self-Sacrifice In Order To Volunteer
Self-sacrifice is one notable thing (the ethos) about volunteering, because again, volunteering is about giving up your time to help with a certain cause. Granted, there is some level of self-sacrifice; however, the volunteering shouldn’t be about you. In fact, when you’re doing something for a cause, you’re there to help others.
So, instead of looking at it like self-sacrifice, look at volunteering as a means of sharing valuable skills with people. Those people, in turn, can create something that they can share themselves. It’s a win-win for both sides of the volunteer cause. As a result, you’ll see that how you view volunteering depends on how you view it. So, try to see volunteering as a positive.
6. Volunteering Is Manual Labour
“While some volunteering roles will have you do manual labour, you shouldn’t feel that all volunteering opportunities will ‘trick you’ into digging and slaving outside,” says Scarlett Bond, a business blogger at Revieweal and UK Services Reviews. “Some opportunities will have you build, dig, and plant as part of volunteering, while others will have you doing office work, data entry, and other less-intense work. So, in hindsight, there are many volunteer opportunities for everyone; and you don’t have to be 100% an expert on something to do them.”
7. Volunteering Is A Catalyst For Dependency
Finally, dependency seems to be a concern, when it comes to international volunteering. According to the negative stories (of which you might’ve heard from the media), many people assume that volunteering in other countries create dependency. However, responsible projects will be set up to 'help locals help themselves' rather than relying on handouts and help, having long-term sustainable goals and objectives in place to achieve this.
While media might “sell” volunteerism as a way for people to “help,” the other side of the curtain may show you that volunteering is an excuse for people to tour the world. However, volunteering isn’t just about travelling; you’re also learning about new skills and new cultures. Essentially, you’re getting a little something for your time – experience and a form of education, as you work to change someone’s life for the better.
As you can see, volunteering in another country isn’t – and shouldn’t – be something daunting or scary. Once you arrive and get to work at the volunteer site, you’ll feel better about doing the work, and no longer have the fear of what you might’ve heard from negative stories.
So, if you truly want to volunteer abroad, then don’t be scared. We hope that these 7 debunked myths have you rest assured that volunteering in another country will be a fantastic experience for everyone involved.