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How to Choose an International Volunteering Project that is Perfect for You

Volunteers can consider several factors in order to find the best international project to commit to. Ultimately, they all come down to one thing- compatibility. The international volunteer’s needs, desires, interests, and skills should fit the requirements of the chosen project like a glove, for two reasons.

· First, a good match ensures that the volunteer will enjoy the work so they can put their best foot forward during the project.

· Secondly, the volunteer’s skills should match the needs of the project in order to make sure that the project will be successful.

Volunteers must also have sufficient language skills for the project to be most effective in their role. If a volunteer wants to choose a project in a Spanish-speaking country but does not speak Spanish, then the volunteer can take time to improve their Spanish before committing to the trip.

Next, personal compatibility factors matter when selecting an international volunteering project. These mainly include safety and health needs at a given volunteering location. To find personal compatibility alignment with a project, volunteers can compile a short list of non-negotiable criteria. Some of these non-negotiable criteria could include:

· Living arrangements (such as staying with a homestay family).
· Medical accommodation (i.e., access to a refrigerator to store medication).
· Safety precautions (like volunteering in a group setting).

Instead of signing up for a pre-existing role, one option would be seeing if a volunteer’s skills meet an unidentified need in an ongoing international volunteering project. Potential volunteers can examine their skills and identify a match between those skills and an unmet need in a project, or create their own by partnering with a host community. For example, if a data analyst deduces that a nonprofit could benefit from analytics to track metrics on an international volunteering project, they can reach out to partner with the nonprofit on this effort as a value-add.

On the other hand, the traditional route of answering a nonprofit’s call for volunteers can be beneficial, considering that a lot of volunteer organizations can be understaffed, underfunded, and/or in need of expansion. Whichever way you choose to volunteer, by identifying a gap that needs filling and then closing it with volunteer work, international volunteers can make a perfect match between a project and their skills.

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

The opinions in this article are my own.

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