A Few Things You Should Know About Volunteering

April 17, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Thinking About Volunteering? A Few Things You Should Know

Health professionals think about volunteering for several different reasons but mostly, they volunteer because they simply want to help those in need and they want to do something important. Because of the nature of their work, healthcare professionals are more likely to be aware of the suffering going on in the world and feel that they simply must do something to help. Some may look for more challenging volunteer opportunities because they find that their current work has lost some of its appeal or has become routine. For them, even a short break can help them feeling revitalised and reenergised.

There are several other reasons why healthcare professionals may choose to volunteer. These could include:

Exposure to exciting new challenges

The opportunity to learn new skills

The opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to helping the underserved

The opportunity to educate others

The adventure of travel to exotic lands that would otherwise be riddled with other challenges

The opportunity to experience interesting new cultures and customs

A chance to prevail over different obstacles

A staunch belief that such work is meaningful and worthwhile

Who is needed as volunteers?

Medical personnel most in demand by relief agencies include surgeons, nurses, paediatricians, family practitioners, public health educators, pharmacists and laboratory technicians. However, the growing need for health volunteers across the world means that with a little bit of research, you will be able to find meaningful assignments no matter what your specialty or your skill set.

Embracing the culture in Iringa, TanzaniaFinding the right organisation to volunteer with

There are several international relief organisations and other global health organisations that are always on the lookout for medical volunteers. Each of these organisations has a different mission and different goals and each of them has their own eligibility criteria for volunteers too. Although it may seem a bit daunting at first, finding an assignment that fits what you are looking for is possible if you know how to go about it. Here are a few good ways to get started with finding an organisation to volunteer with:

Look for volunteer-seeking organisations and contact them directly

Get word of mouth recommendations from friends and acquaintances

Get in touch with organisations that help with placements

Attend meetings and conferences related to international health

Inquire through a religious group

Explore Internet resources

Volunteering long-term v/s short term – which is better?

There is no fixed right answer to this. Whether you decide to volunteer long term or short term will depend on your individual circumstances and time constraints. Ideally, if you have a choice, short-term volunteering is best to start with as it gives you a chance to see if you are suited for this work or whether a particular assignment is a compatible one. However, this is not an option you will always be given. Most organisations prefer to take on individuals who are ready to commit to volunteering for a longer period of time. This is to offset what they would have spent in evaluating you and your application and all other expenses that they would have to incur for your travel, accommodation and training.

Most organisations will pay for travel, housing and food only for those who offer long-term service and usually find it difficult to fund short-term volunteers.