As you may know, I’ve had significant experience as an international volunteer. In some situations my presence was helpful to those with whom I worked. For example, the preschool I helped start in 2002 – 2004 in a rural town in the Dominican Republic has grown significantly over the years and, most importantly, is run entirely by Dominicans.
In other situations, my presence wasn’t as helpful. I remember volunteering in a favela in Rio de Janeiro in 2001, trying to learn Excel . . . in Portuguese. It was a painful experience for both me and the nonprofit. In fact, I probably learned more on the weekly bus rides to the nonprofit than the staff learned from me in all of the time I spent there.
Still, international volunteering can be a valuable experience, and it has grown in popularity over the years.
My latest Nonprofit Quarterly newswire offers food for thought to potential volunteers as they begin their journey.