A few days ago, I was at a volunteers’ meet at a local Non-Government Organisation (NGO), when we had a few new walk-ins. After introduction, the first thing they asked was – “what are the kinds of volunteering activities you do?”
It got me thinking about have I ever tried to classify volunteering opportunities? Immediately I could just think of a classification based on causes – we volunteer towards education, health, youth welfare; or based on time – one day activities; short-term and long-term volunteering roles. A more relevant classification, however, would be the one based on the nature of the volunteering activity itself – online volunteering; on the ground volunteering or the more recent trend of voluntourism. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. It is just a reference that can help you identify the kind of volunteering activity you may want to get involved with.
Now I couldn’t think of a better name. This is what volunteering has been since age-old. You go to a local NGO and work on one of their projects be it directly with beneficiaries or in office or a fundraiser. These projects can be as short as a few hours or as long as one year or longer. You may wish to spend your birthday at the local orphanage and that would be a one-day volunteering. But you may choose to teach them and thus visiting them regularly; making it a long-term association :).
Internship/ Gap Year Volunteering:
More and more students are turning to volunteering with NGOs as their preferred internship and gap-year option. Working in the development sector provides valuable career experience and skills useful in placements. Since in this case you will be working closely day-in and day-out with the NGO, it is important you research well before joining them. And more so if it’s in a foreign country. There are also many volunteer management agencies that can place you with reliable NGOs but they may charge a fee for this service.
Volun-Tourism or volunteer travel is a great way of combining tourism and volunteering. It provides the unique opportunity to see a place as an insider; live with locals and get access to many behind-the-scene activities in an area. Before you plan a trip, search for NGOs and connect with them to explore how you can help in the amount of time that you have. You should also connect with other travelers on various forums such as Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor. Kenn Budd, author of and The Voluntourist, provides a good list of resources on Voluntourism on his website.
The world-wide-web has made geographical boundary non-existent in many respects! Online volunteering makes it possible to volunteer for different organisations in different countries from your home/ office and at your convenience. Projects may involve helping with social media, website or designing some material, mentoring youth, proof-reading articles, translations etc. You can explore many opportunities at www.onlinevolunteering.org (UNV’s online volunteering portal).
Micro volunteering is the new kid on the block. In effect, a subset of online volunteering, micro-volunteering is on the rise. Micro-volunteering combines small actions by many people to create big impacts. Short (actually very short) projects, done online. Check out Help from Home; Sparked and Bright Works for projects that help you save the world in your pyjamas!
Here’s a small introduction to the concept of microvolunteering:
Youtube video link: Introduction to microvolunteering
Volunteering is a very dynamic field. It is difficult to identify and categorize different types of volunteering activities. Add your classification to the list!