Advice for Women Volunteering Abroad
Many women are embracing the concept of volunteering abroad either as a gap year option or as a way of having a productive holiday. The best volunteer programme for you will depend on your lifestyle and interests, so finding a good match is the best way to successfully volunteer while travelling. Volunteering with established programmes should help women stay safe and secure, though packing a variety of safety equipment and learning basic self-defence techniques is also a good idea. Finally, sharing plans and staying in touch with others will help women add another layer of safety as well as share their memorable experiences even with those who can not join them on their travels.
Finding a Good MatchOne of the most important steps towards a successful volunteer placement abroad is to find a good match that suits your lifestyle and interests. As you begin to browse your options, think about your age, physical health, marital status, budget, length of time you have for travelling, language abilities, religion, practical skills, personal preferences about “roughing it” and interests. These factors will all help you determine if a volunteer placement will be right for you – and for those with whom you will be volunteering.
Volunteering with Established ProgrammesWomen interested in volunteering abroad should investigate the options offered by established programmes. Volunteering with such a programme should help women stay more safe and secure as these programmes likely have already made sure that the communities are welcoming, the equipment is safe and living accommodations are as secure as possible. Options such as Raleigh International and Global Vision International offer overseas voluntary placements, though charities and other causes may also offer the opportunity to work with them overseas.
Packing Safety EquipmentYou don’t need to pack the kitchen sink, but women who will be travelling overseas to volunteer should pack some basic safety equipment. A first aid kit is always a good idea and should contain items such as plasters, antiseptic wipes, tape, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory tablets, tweezers, scissors and wet wipes. A safety/disaster kit is also advisable, particularly one containing water, packaged food, a torch, batteries and a blanket. Carrying a spare pair of clothes, a charged mobile phone and your financial and travel documentation is also a good idea in case of emergencies.
Learning Basic Self- DefenceWhile it would be nice to think that women who are volunteering abroad would never need to worry about their personal safety this is unfortunately not very realistic. All female travellers should learn the basics of self-defence before they leave home, including ways to prevent attacks (staying in well lit, public areas, walking with confidence, avoiding areas that feel unsafe) and what to do during an attack (yelling “fire,” looking for makeshift weapons, attempting to scratch or pull hair in order to gain DNA evidence). If a voluntary placement programme does not offer self-defence courses for women then women may want to invest in a few on their own.
Sharing Plans and Staying In TouchWomen who travel abroad to volunteer may find themselves in relatively remote areas or out of consistent contact via phone, fax or Internet. Being so out of touch can be frightening, so women should share their plans with friends and family before leaving home. Even a vague itinerary can help everyone feel more in control when a woman is unable to check in every now and then. Even without modern conveniences, women can still send letters and postcards to assure loved ones that they are safe and take a variety of photos so that when they do return home they can share their experiences with others.
Volunteering abroad is a popular travel option for many women. Selecting an voluntary placement that matches their interests and abilities as well as taking many necessary steps towards ensuring their safety should help women enjoy a successful volunteering experience.