Find an ethical volunteer opportunity that fits your interests and skills.
If you could check out your friends, co-workers and even strangers bucket lists, you’d probably find “traveling overseas” toward the very top. We all seem to want the opportunity to visit far-flung beaches, immerse ourselves in new cultures and sample exotic foods.
And in our increasingly globalized world, many conscientious travelers are adding international volunteering to that very same list. But knowing how to ethically give back overseas is tough, and the carousel of choices when you first begin researching can be overwhelming.
To help you streamline the process, take the quick quiz below; it will help you decide not only which types of volunteer projects may be a good fit for your next trip, but also clue you into ethical resources that can act as a launching point for your research.
To get started, grab a scrap of paper (or use the handheld device of your choice!) and respond to the questions with your best-fit answer. Then match your results to the recommendations below.
1) Your volunteer placement has landed you in a town with no electricity and no internet access. What is your first reaction?
a) Pull out your notebook and start a list of things to Google as soon as you find a computer.
b) You scarcely noticed because you left your laptop and electronics at home.
c) You’re thankful that you loaded your Kindle with back issues of your favorite magazines.
d) Intensely pine for technology—your first mission is to find Wi-Fi immediately!
2) Your ideal volunteer opportunity allows you to work with ___________.
a) Students and children
b) Plants and nature
c) Animals and the environment
d) Other skilled professionals
3) Which statement best fits your ideas about education?
a) I am an avid and lifelong learner.
b) I’d rather be outdoors than in a classroom studying.
c) I love studying topical issues and current events.
d) I’ve spent years honing knowledge within my career niche.
4) Most people would describe your personality as ________.
a) Friendly, nurturing, and communicative—you thrive on interpersonal interactions and finding innovative solutions to any problem facing you.
b) Thoughtful, creative, and introverted—you love peaceful time alone and you are an excellent listener.
c) Passionate, friendly, and conscientious—you take a stand and share your ideas freely with others.
d) Assertive, inspiring, and competent—you are a natural leader and enjoy collaboration projects.
5) Your work environment matters a lot; which statement best fits your idea of the perfect volunteer placement?
a) I prefer low-key, indoor activities.
b) I’m quite fit and am happiest doing hard, satisfying work outside.
c) In the office or in the field, I go where help is needed.
d) Offices are my native environment and I enjoy using modern technology.
Tally your answers and match your results to the descriptions and organizations below. If you’re on the fence between two choices, read both! There is no wrong answer here, so simply choose the description that best describes what you had in mind for your ideal volunteer experience.
Your Volunteer Travel Personality Results:
Mostly As: The Educator
Mostly Bs: The Agriculturalist
Mostly Cs: The Conservationist
Mostly Ds: Pro-bono Professional Services
Shannon O’Donnell has actively traveled around the world since 2008; she travels slowly and volunteers in small communities along the way. She recently published The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook—a how-to guide for ethical volunteering—and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her travel blog, A Little Adrift.com.