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How to Become A New International Volunteer

What is a “New International Volunteer?”

This new kind of international volunteer practices best development methods and rejects approaches that have not worked in the past. They distinguish themselves by their knowledge about why they volunteer and know how to maximize their efforts to help those around them. The inclusive international volunteer pledges to do no harm (even accidentally), prioritizes the people they volunteer for over their own interests, and changes development norms through innovation and a commitment to sustainability. The new international volunteer knows how to utilize the unique role of the volunteer position to leave long-term and sustainable progress behind.

New international volunteers adhere to the role of liaison and act as an extra set of helping hands for whatever locals need assistance with. They fulfill this role by bringing resources to their projects and creating awareness. They always listen to locals and adhere to their vision. The new international volunteer does not recognize themselves as a frontrunner but rather defers to locals in the host community as experts, creators and leaders.

Who can join?

Everyone who has previously volunteered internationally or wants to in the future has the potential to be a new international volunteer. However, those who wish to act as new international volunteers do not need prior experience. In fact, someone becomes a new international volunteer simply by pledging to ensure that all volunteering they take part in will be ethical, sustainable, inclusive & concretely leave a positive impact.

Why does it matter?

The world could be further towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals if each person who volunteered internationally did so as a new international volunteer. If every person who volunteered internationally followed the principles of the new international volunteer, then this could make an impact on both the micro and macro levels, furthering economic growth, development & poverty reduction around the world.

On the macro level, each helpful action new international volunteers make has a positive effect that maximizes the benefits of the volunteer project. On the micro level, the good outcome of all volunteers working as new international volunteers starts with the individual- both individuals in the host community and the individual volunteer.

How to start?

The new international volunteer prepares for volunteering by communicating with locals and the volunteer team upfront. They thoroughly research at home and in person, when possible. They choose the right project for them, considering the length and location, and ensure the organization and leaders follow ethical principles. Although volunteering focuses on people in the host community, the new international volunteer takes steps to mitigate any health risks they could encounter, is aware of safety measures, and prepares for culture and reverse culture shock for their own well-being.

When volunteering, the new international volunteer utilizes all proven development tools- including development, relief, sustainability, incremental change & inclusion. They donate appropriately and use financial strategies wisely. The new international volunteer innovates in a changing world by utilizing globalization and social media to reduce inequality and climate change. They understand the benefits and pitfalls of international systems such as free trade, fair trade & international relations between countries.

After returning home, the new international volunteer follows up with the host community and strengthens long-distance relationships with individuals they met there. They only post appropriate pictures of their trip that do not enforce negative stereotypes, take away the privacy of children, or portray themselves as saviors. The new international volunteer seeks to continue assisting the host community and strengthening the bond between them over time. They follow up to ask questions about the project's long-term success to ensure it functions as sustainably as planned.

Final Thoughts

For those of you reading this and thinking that this is exactly what you need to be doing, the journey as a new international volunteer begins now. New international volunteers can begin researching potential projects that match their skill set. Then, when the time comes to go out and volunteer, be conscious every step of the way that the work meets the principles outlined in this blog post. After completing the project, make a long-term impact by following up with the host community and continuing a relationship with them. Finally, tell people about the new international volunteering principles and how they too can get involved. With these few steps, the new international volunteering journey begins.

Next week, learn how to take the new international volunteer pledge on the blog.

To learn more, please check out my book, The New International Volunteer: A Hands-On Guide to Sustainable & Inclusive Development, available here.

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