The benefits of volunteering, for a volunteer, can be immediate and can last a lifetime. However, the principle benefits of volunteering should always be felt by the projects themselves, as we strive to improve or enable the outcome of the community based organisations we support. We do this in a number of ways:
- Volunteers increase capacity – By far the biggest benefit our volunteers offer projects is extra human resource. Many projects can only provide a basic level of service, with just enough staff to ‘get by’. An overseas volunteer provides the extra capacity required to:
- Improve the outcome for clients: having more staff means that the project can offer a better quality of service. Whether teaching children English, providing basic nursing duties or looking after disadvantaged children, the presence of volunteers means there is more time available for each individual; more time to care, teach, play and support those in need.
- Improve the quality of life for local staff: for staff trying to cope with high numbers, the support of volunteers can be a life changer. Committed local staff are often stretched, stressed and potentially dissatisfied with the level of care they can offer. A volunteer’s help allows them to act and think differently – enabling them to do more of the work they have a passion for, with less limitations.
- Provide new skills – One of the best benefits of volunteering arise when a volunteer provides skills that cannot be sourced locally, because they either don’t exist or they can’t afford them. From dance instructors and sports coaches, to lawyers, HR managers and specialist doctors, volunteers can offer skills that supplement existing activities or help transform a project’s performance
- Transfer skills – The optimum benefit of volunteering is when a volunteer transfers skills to the project, making the impact more lasting and the project more sustainable. This could be teaching new handicraft techniques to a cooperative, or sharing new therapies in a clinic; both have a lasting impact for the community they serve
- Enable projects to exist – Some projects may not exist without volunteers. While this is broadly contrary to the idea of sustainability, volunteers do play a vital role in conservation projects that would not otherwise happen if it weren’t for the enthusiasm and support of international volunteers. Keeping projects going has to be one of the key benefits of volunteering.
- Promote a cause – The presence of volunteers on a project can be an agent for change. Governments keen to manage the perceptions of their country abroad take an interest in the activities of NGOs and volunteering organisations. Hence the attention of volunteers feeding the children of a rubbish dump on our first project in Mexico eventually led to the local authorities establishing a care centre and school for the children, which volunteers continue to support.