You want to volunteer in Zambia? That’s fabulous! Volunteering abroad (or at home) can be one of the most memorable times of your life, and being clear about your motives and expectations will ensure that you have a good experience and that your host has a good experience, too.
We’ve put together a list of five things to consider before booking your volunteering trip:
In Zambia, if you are volunteering then you should not be in the country on a tourist visa.
Please contact the NGO or company that you will be coming to volunteer with and they should be able to advise on up to date information or visit the official Zambian Department of Immigration website.
Research the organisation:
The number of organisations offering volunteer projects can be overwhelming. Be sure to thoroughly research who your partner-organisation is, what their mission is, where your money actually goes, and what you get for paying to volunteer. You should feel comfortable asking these questions and the organization should be willing and able to answer them.
There are a lot of fancy websites, with expensive volunteer placements but cost doesn’t always equal the quality of the projects on the ground. Often much of the money is going towards overseas marketing campaigns and administration costs. Don’t underestimate your ability to contact people on the ground and see about local grassroots projects that could really use your skills.
Research the location:
You should research the country, its culture, customs and traditions, the food habits of the people and the entire social setup. You need to understand the Dos and Don’ts, what to wear, how to greet people, and if possible, learn a word or two in the local language. The more you know about your host country, the more connected you’ll feel with them and that will positively affect your work as well.
Think about your own needs as well – would you be happier in a rural location with limited electricity and WiFi or would you be happier in an urban location? Would a traditional village environment be more your cup of tea or would you like city accommodation with air conditioning? Knowing your own comfort level will make the whole experience better for everyone.
Think about your effectiveness:
Reflect on things that make you excited – like any kind of work, if you are enjoying yourself and engaged, then you will do a better job and everyone will have a better experience. Think about what makes your heart sing!
Joining a project that aligns with your skillset will help you to contribute in the most effective manner. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a qualified librarian, a nurse or teacher (though there are projects specifically for all of these things) but perhaps you are great at art, football or even writing funding proposals? You should be coming to make a positive impact with your project, but if the Project Coordinator needs to spend most of their time training you, then this will not be the most effective use of either of your time.
Never underestimate what you can achieve from your home country before departure. For example, many sports charities would love second-hand footballs, cleats, shin guards or team sports shirts. A Facebook appeal to your friends might surprise you what people are willing to donate.
Consider what you want to achieve:
Be honest about your reasons for volunteering; knowing your intentions properly will help both you and your project. It’s OK if you want to bulk up your CV for a university application or if you’ve just had a bad break-up and want to do something completely different.
Just be realistic about what you want to achieve with your time volunteering and use the time effectively. It should go without saying that it isn’t OK to want to volunteer just for the Instagram snapshots! Like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of this experience.
Chat to us for more information about volunteering in Zambia generally as well as the volunteer projects we run at Jollyboys.