Do you have to submit an application for the placement?
If you can just book the volunteer trip, it is an indicator that the company does not care much about matching the right volunteers to the right placements. But be careful: Many organization call their onboarding "application" but accept all volunteers without questioning. If you have to submit additional information, such as your CV or a letter of intend, this can be understood to be a good sign!
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Do you have access to individual work place descriptions?
Each volunteer placement has a unique environment and organizational structure. Therefore, each placement is in need of different skills and requires different experiences which are passed over to the volunteers through work descriptions. In addition volunteers should know beforehand what they can expect from the placement and if the work meets their abilities and interests. If there are no descriptions send to you and you have no saying in where you will work, you should be careful.
Will the local partner have a saying in the selection of the volunteer?
In the end, the local organizations will be responsible for the volunteer and his/her work. They must be free to accept or decline any volunteer and they should take their time to make a decision. If this is not the case, it is a good hint that the programme is focussing more on the volunteers' needs than on the local ones.
Are you provided with detailed information before you pay?
For your own preparation, it is essential to know as much as possible about what you have to expect. The organization should deliver as many information as possible. This will help you to learn about the organization and its work beforehand. Remember, compared to a real working situation your volunteer trip is rather short!
Is there an onboarding session before you start to volunteer?
If you are new to a foreign place, it is important to understand the local habits and customs to avoid intercultural misunderstandings. But not only that, it is important for your well being to receive adequate safety advice. In any case, this session should last at least one day.
Is there a mentor or a local person guiding the volunteers?
Although volunteers come with good intentions, there must be a supervisor who can also support the volunteers in case of problems and conflicts. Sometimes intercultural misunderstandings and personal problems need the attention of a local expert.
Is there an emergency plan?
In case of a natural disaster, a health emergency or any case of other emergencies, the organization must have a system in place to deliver aid and rescue the volunteers.
Does the placement include work with children and/or other vulnerable people?
If you do not have experience working with vulnerable groups such as children, it should be avoided to work directly with them and especially without proper supervision. If you do work with such groups, there must be a special concept in place to protect the group such as a mentoring system, additional training, and child protection policies.
Is the organization aiming for lasting change in their community?
Responsible organizations must aim for a lasting impact to change the situation sustainably. Read more on this in our blog!
Does the organization advertises showing people suffering?
Also poor people must be treated respectfully. If you show people in undignant circumstances, it will appeal to the viewers emotions and call to action, but shows the people in a disgraceful way.
Can you find positive reviews from other volunteers?
Although there are several online review platforms for volunteering programs, be careful as some are directly attached to some companies. Better to seek on Facebook for someone who can give you first hand information, e.g. in our Responsible Volunteering Facebook group! Try to find reliable information, but please also make sure to ask the right questions. A good orientation to do so can be our quality standards.
Is the organization transparent about the use of funds?
Social organizations have to be very transparent in their use of funds and a look at the numbers will give you a better impression on the organisations work. Enterprises do not have to disclose financial statements.
Does a post-programme interaction exist?
If the organization offers meetings, exchanges or other opportunities after volunteering, it is a good indication that they see the volunteers as a resource for further engagement and the volunteering itself as some kind of investment into the volunteer.
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