At the end of 2014 we updated and refreshed the training that we offer to IVHQ volunteers. We wanted to make it more comprehensive, more interesting and more useful.
IVHQers had told us that they enjoyed the detailed information provided in our Program Information Booklets but wanted a simpler way to learn they key things that they needed to know before they took off on their international volunteering program.
We believe we have a responsibility to support volunteers to prepare for their experience in the right way and we know that well prepared volunteers are safer, more responsible and more able to make a positive contribution.
The idea of providing our training through an interactive, scenario-based tool was to make it interesting, thought-provoking and hopefully a little bit fun. Volunteers who complete the training will learn a whole lot, but here are 5 of the best tips:
1. Good preparation is the golden rule
It doesn’t matter how much international travel you’ve done, preparing well for your volunteer abroad experience is absolutely essential. This means booking flights and arranging travel insurance nice and early (additional hack: you can log your flight and insurance details in your MyIVHQ profile), getting your criminal background sorted, and making sure you have the right vaccinations and visa arrangements. It also means doing your own research about the country you are visiting, learning some basic local language, and thinking carefully about what you pack with consideration for appropriate and culturally sensitive clothing.
2. Keeping yourself safe is relatively easy
Our local teams are well set up to keep you safe while you’re with them. They have risk management plans in place and they’re equipped and supported to ensure that your health and safety is kept as a top priority. But just like anywhere, keeping safe is ultimately your responsibility and the biggest risks facing volunteers are when they are not at a project or with our local staff. In order to stay safe when you’re out and about in your free-time make sure you think carefully about the transport you use, the food and drink that you consume and the way you behave. Being respectful, thinking twice, and taking particular care around alcohol are good basic rules to follow.
3. You have skills, but you don’t know everything
You have skills that are valuable to our projects but it’s really important to remember that you need to learn before you can really make a difference. Unless you’ve previously spent a lot of time in the country and community that you’re going to be volunteering in, it’s unlikely you’ll know how to best make a positive contribution. Be humble, listen carefully, follow the lead of our local staff. They know their community and their projects well and you are there to support them and to learn, you’re not there to show them how it’s done. Think critically about your skills and speak with your IVHQ Program Manager about how they can best be utilized on your chosen program.
4. Attitude is everything
Everyone has expectations about what an experience will be like. We all create mental images of people, places and what our day to day activities will look like. The biggest mistakes that volunteers make are having expectations which don’t reflect reality and having attitudes which are counter-productive. Yes you’ll have an incredible experience, yes you’ll meet amazing people and see amazing places, and yes you’ll make a valuable contribution to a project. But you won’t change the world in two weeks or four and you won’t be recognized as the community’s savior. Attitude is everything - have an open mind, be ready to be challenged be ready to contribute in whatever way is most valuable, not whatever way is most glamorous.
5. We’ve got your back
We’ve been providing volunteer abroad experiences since 2007, so we’ve got a pretty good idea about how to support you in the best way. You’ll get dedicated support from our staff at our New Zealand HQ and you’ll be expertly hosted by our local team. We’ll support you with resources, information and advice so ask questions and don’t hesitate to make the most of the massive community of past, present and future volunteers who provide reviews and advice on the IVHQ Facebook Group and share their experiences on sites like Go Overseas or the volunteer abroad platform Go Abroad.
Our volunteer training is packed with advice and it’s free and exclusive to IVHQ volunteers. If you’ve registered, get it done today! Or try a sample here.