Who Makes a Good Volunteer?
We have had our share of really brilliant volunteers over the past 7 years, along with a small number of not so brilliant ones! Our experience seems to indicate the following.
The best volunteers are….
Any age; both sexes; any ethnic or religious background; those who have had no university education at all and those from top universities. In other words, good volunteers come in all shapes and sizes but the unifying factor is their own attitude to the work.
Probably the single most important attribute is having a great sense of humour. When you walk into the classroom and find there are not enough books and the children don’t know what you are talking about you need to be able to laugh with them until they feel comfortable enough to listen to you. When you arrive at your accommodation and find the bedroom is smaller, more basic and possibly dirtier than anywhere you have stayed before you can either cry or laugh!
People who don’t take themselves too seriously always get the most respect from others and do the best job. Those who just ‘muck in’ and do their best with the limited resources available tend to find that they are embarrassed by the amount of praise and appreciation they receive.
People who are flexible get the most out of it. We always aim to use the valuable skills that our volunteers bring to the very best advantage of the children but when a PhD from Cambridge and top IT consultant decided that one of the schools was in a terrible state and needed painting they just got down and started painting it themselves! (Between them they also totally redesigned the curriculum a the project where they were teaching refugee children.) Another volunteer found that we were not keeping him busy enough so he started helping out part time at second one of our projects and then went home and ran two half marathons to raise money for them which he brought back the following year.
But to be a great volunteer you dont have to be a superstar! You just have to relax, enjoy it and do your best. We also have plenty of people who come and do a great job and go away again. And we love them just as much!
But remember you must enjoy working with children, otherwise every day will be agony!
Some of my favourite quotes:
‘This experience has changed my life’
‘I love working with the kids’
‘The community welcomed us with open arms’
‘It was just such fun’
‘The local staff were inspiring’
‘After I volunteered I suddenly realised what I wanted to do with my life.’
My favourite complaint (Given that we are an Asian charity): ‘Every day we have to eat rice….I forgot to tell you before I came that I don’t eat rice’
(NB: We take up all references and do criminal background checks on all volunteers.)