So you want to make a difference...
The Basics of Volunteering - Support & Learn
Volunteering is about using your contribution - with or without specific expertise - to support an existing charitable project. You do not replace a local worker, but you help the local employees. For example, you could provide support to a teacher of individual pupils in large school classes.
Anyone who has personally experienced volunteer work abroad, where support is needed, often wants to continue to support them after their return. This is an essential goal of volunteering - to promote a cosmopolitan, sensitized and globally minded society.
Catalyst for Global & Inter-Culture Learning
The overall target is to promote the learning of new cultures and to sharpen your view of global relationships. In terms of your personal development, the above leads to huge possibility to raise your awareness and develop your own thinking.
RGV's Criteria for Volunteering Abroad
Sustainable & Ethical
The people in the projects we support, and their interests, are our main focus. In all the areas we support, cooperation with local organisations is particularly important to us. Our volunteers do not jeopardise local jobs, because they only support existing facilities and teams.
We also attach great importance to the effective implementation and communication of our child protection guidelines, and in line with this, the rejection of volunteer work in orphanages. RGV Child Protection and Conduct Guidelines must be signed by all participants before departure. In addition, we refrain from engaging in non-species-appropriate animal welfare projects. For us, sustainable and ethical projects are at the heart of everything we do.
RGV also supports select projects, beyond manpower, with monetary and material donations. We attach great importance to sustainability and responsible, future-oriented thinking, in Germany, the UK and in our target countries. This is done through things such as offsetting our flight emissions through the MyClimate Foundation.
Ensuring a Positive Impact
RGV also takes over the implementation and support on site. Our team leaders in the RGV target countries are constantly in communication with our projects, as well daily exchanges with our Head Office in Munich. We also avoid offering short-term volunteering assignments wherever possible; participation in social projects is only possible for four weeks or more. In this time, you come to make a difference, and not just for a holiday. Participation lasting 8 weeks or more is especially useful for those volunteers without specific previous knowledge, as it allows them time to build their knowledge up and then make a targeted impact. We will always check before confirmation of participation whether the project suits you. It is also important to note that our participants only take limited responsibility within our projects. You will not be put under tremendous pressure to achieve certain outcomes, as the main responsibility lies with the projects and their permanent employees. Your role is to provide much needed support. Evaluation is a constant process for us here at RGV. Each volunteer will be asked to provide feedback at the end of your project placement and the online feedback forms will be evaluated. By speaking to volunteers, we can help optimise the process and ensure we are able to provide the most impactful support to these projects. Finally, the way we ensure the greatest impact in a targeted way is by focusing on only a few countries. RGV is not an organisation for volunteering worldwide. Instead, we deliberately work with a select few countries in Africa and Asia. Our coordinators are trained experts in their fields and have a lot of expertise in the preparation and placement of our participating volunteers in these countries.
Which Projects Can You Support?
From the UK, currently you can participate in social, sports, wildlife and environmental projects, which you can participate in without any specific expertise. The only characteristics you need are empathy, flexibility and a versatility to adapt to your new surroundings and it's cultures.
What Expectations Should I have?
What Can I do?
As a volunteer, especially without previous knowledge, it would usually be too much to expect to make big changes immediately or see the results of your work - most projects are designed to have a long-term, sustainable impact over a greater time frame. Don’t let that discourage you, because your support is vital in all of our jobs and even simple tasks that you can take care of daily go towards achieving the overall goal. Please also be aware that volunteering is not the same as development aid.
It is important that you approach your volunteer work with open eyes and learn to recognise the need for support in your project. Your own ideas and expectations of your duties as a volunteer should be placed in the background, and the interests of the people in the developing country firmly coming first.
People in developing countries do not want to be seen as passive beneficiaries. Rather, with your support, we want to promote a cultural exchange that has a lasting effect in the community.
Are the days the same or predictable?
Social work, whether in Europe, Africa or Asia, is facing new challenges every day, many of which are unexpected and difficult to plan - and you should get involved as a volunteer as well. In our target countries, your voluntary commitment can not be planned in the same way as, for example, a package holiday. There is much more to it than just organising accommodation and meals. Projects are dynamic, and the needs of the community can be ever changing, depending on things which are happening at the time. For us as a provider of flexible volunteer work, the biggest challenge is to meet the needs of the projects, as well as the expectations of our participants. This balance only works if there is openness, flexibility and, if necessary, willingness to change and adapt, from both sides.
Is this a holiday?
Definitely not! If you want to engage in a volunteer program, please be aware that volunteering is not the same as a pure vacation, or an adventure trip. If you decide to do volunteer work, you consciously decide to actively support a project - so the work is the most important thing. It’s not all work and no play, and you have enough time on weekends and on days off to travel with other volunteers, but this should not be your main motivation for volunteering abroad. These projects are about focusing on others, and making an impact on the lives of people less fortunate than us.
How Do I Prepare for a Project in Africa or Asia?
Volunteering at a project in a developing country brings many challenges, so a thorough preparation is extremely important! With over 17 years of expertise and experience RGV, will ensure everything is covered before your departure!
A voluntary commitment abroad also requires a lot of personal responsibility. You have to have mature, well thought-out actions and thorough preparation from the start. Yet out of everything, openness is one of the most important qualities you should bring as a volunteer. This means being open-minded, approaching and talking to locals about where you are needed and what you can do. During your volunteer work you are firmly scheduled as a worker and the local teams count on your support and your reliability. With the right attitude and preparation, you can get the most out of your time abroad as a volunteer.