The first thing to be aware of is that every Volunteering Experience is going to be different. That being said, there are things you can do to make sure that both you and the Organization get the most from your Volunteering Experience.
Before You Arrive
Choose carefully. Make sure that you choose the 'right' Organization. See How to Volunteer for more details.
Confirm. Make sure that the Organization that you will be staying with has received and approved your Volunteering Request.
Discuss the details. Be clear about your expectations and make sure you ask the Organization to share their expectations. You should discuss the details of your Volunteering Experience, including accommodation, what to bring etc. Most problems arise due to a lack of clear communication. We really cannot emphasize this enough, there is no such thing as too much information!
Make plans. Both you and the Organization should be clear about the details of meeting. Make sure you know the exact time and place along with how you will get there. As a safety measure, make sure the meeting is in a open public space and during the day time if possible. Use common sense - if something doesn't feel right, pay attention to your instinct and act accordingly. That being said, remember that the majority of people are good intentioned and trustworthy.
Contact details. Make sure that and the Organization swap contact details, including mobile phone numbers and emergency numbers. You will want to be able to contact each other if there are any issues.
Organize a plan B. Even if your expectations are clear and you communicate with the Organization this it is always a good idea to have a backup plan in case anything unexpected happens - someone to contact and somewhere to stay.
Be prepared. Make sure you are prepared for your Volunteering Experience. You should have consulted a doctor and gotten all the necessary vaccinations. Your passport should be current. Once you arrive a small amount of local cash will fix most potential problems (buying groceries, clothes etc.).
During Your Stay
Discuss the details, part 2. When you arrive, make sure you find out how the Organization works. Find out what you are going to do as a Volunteer, and what you should not do. Some cultures have very different ideas and values. Learning these quickly will ensure that you don't run into problems.
Ask questions. If you are not sure, ask! This point is connected to discuss the details part 2 (above). No one will expect you to know everything when you first arrive and if you don't ask, you won't know.
Focus on your Organization. Remember that you are a Volunteer first. You are not on a holiday, and the Organization expects you to work. You will get an opportunity to travel and try new things. But make sure that you put the Organization first!
Show your appreciation. Everyone likes to be thanked. Your Organization is giving you an amazing experience. Make sure you let them know how grateful you are.
Keep to your schedule. Arrive when you say you will, leave when you say you will. If you need to change your schedule, make sure you speak to the Organization about it first.
Be extra careful. You are in a new country and new culture, and not every country is as safe as your home. You should not be paranoid (it will ruin your experience), but make a point of being careful. Ask your Organization about what is not safe, or what they would not recommend you doing. If you do feel unsafe, speak to your Organization or consider leaving.
Stick to the Volunteer Code of Conduct
After Your Stay
How to thank the Organization. As a Volunteer, you have an opportunity to make a lasting difference at an Organization. But it is important to remember that 9 times out of 10 the Volunteer receives more benefit out of their Volunteering Experience, so be sure to recognize all that the Organization has given you!
Write a review Our community is built on trust, and trust comes from honest conversation. That is why we encourage all Volunteers and Organizations to write Reviews for one another. When writing a review or review response, be open and honest. What was good and what was not so good? The best reviews provide constructive information that helps the community make better decisions and is educational for the Organization. Your review will help the Organization attract more Volunteers.