Home country and city:
That’s a tricky one. I have dual citizenship (USA and Canada) but I identify as Canadian. I lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada from the time I was 10 until I was 25 so it is my default short answer. However, since leaving Canada ten years ago, I have lived in four countries on four different continents.
Current volunteering role and location:
I’m currently volunteering for BiblioWorks in Sucre, Bolivia as their Volunteer Coordinator/Communications Director.
Future volunteering or work plans:
I have a job lined up at an international school in Busan, South Korea for August 2016. After doing that for a few years, I am likely to seek out another long-term volunteer position.
Why do you volunteer?
I have taken on long-term volunteer positions (a year at charity school in Tanzania and now volunteering for BiblioWorks in Bolivia) because I have been privileged to make enough money to allow me to share my skills and knowledge with others who have not. My parents modelled volunteering from the time I was little and in fact my mother was a volunteer coordinator at a non-profit when I was a teenager. My brother and sister-in-law run a children’s home in Manila in the Philippines and are completely supported by individual donations. Knowing the leap of faith they take in not having an income, it was easier for me to quit my job and rely on my savings.
What does ‘meaningful volunteering’ mean to you?
I think it is important that you are not taking a salaried position away from someone by volunteering. I believe that you need to volunteer in a capacity that uses your skills and knowledge and that up skills the employees of the organization.
What made you apply for your current volunteering role?
I had been working in Switzerland (after my time in Tanzania) and I wanted to find a way to volunteer with a different organization and improve my Spanish at the same time.
How do you normally find volunteering opportunities?
I have come across volunteering opportunities by finding organizations at presentations, by visiting them and by hunting for them online.
What advice would you give for someone interested in a meaningful volunteering placement?
Think about what skills and knowledge you have that you could share. When you find a volunteer position that interests you, do your homework and ask lots of questions: Does the organization employ local people in leadership roles? What would your role be? Are you expected to pay to volunteer with the organization?
Come up with your own question and answer it!
What’s been the best part of volunteering in a foreign country for you?
By volunteering, I have had the opportunity to interact with local people in an authentic context. I have learned far more about the culture and traditions than I have when I have passed through a place as a traveller or lived overseas as an expat.
Come back in February for another volunteer experience, and subscribe to Worldly Adventurer to get free monthly updates about finding a meaningful volunteering placement in South America, and how you can make the most of your own volunteer experiences.
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