Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

experteering photo

 

We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and dont’s of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or know-how, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

You spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

experteering photo

 

We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and dont’s of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or know-how, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

You spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

Taking the Leap: A Teenager’s Experience Volunteering and Traveling Solo in Asia

By: Gaby Alemán

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For many reasons, the world seems much larger and more intimidating than it really is. We look at the globe and we’re hesitant to take a step out of our neighborhood for fear of the unknown— but you know what? That fear of the unknown is exactly what pushed me to leave. Maybe fear isn’t the correct word… Curiosity seems more appropriate. It was with a surging curiosity that I set out last September on my gap year, fresh outta high school, to travel to Asia for eight months.

 

I was, and am, part of a fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill called the Global Gap Year Fellowship, which gives incoming freshmen the ability to defer their enrollment and gives them scholarship money in order to pursue a volunteer based gap year. With the encouragement of my university and an oversized backpack clumsily strapped to my back, I headed off to Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Now, you can guess that traveling alone internationally at 18 is nerve wracking; heck, it still is for people twice my age. But what I realized when I found myself crossing from the domestic flights section at the JFK airport to the Etihad airlines gate, where I was so clearly the only young backpacker in a line of colorfully ethnic women in saris and men in traditional robes and turbans, was that I wasn’t actually alone. Everyone I asked, for the most part, helped me in whatever I needed; they answered my questions and calmed my nerves. When you open yourself to the chance of being approached, when you’re cautious, but still willing to smile at people, you’d be amazed at the help you can receive and the people you cross paths with.

Traveling from country to country was a breeze after the first initial dive into the chaos of airports and immigration. My time in Sri Lanka served as a time of reflection; I was thrown into a mix of the Sinhalese and Tamil cultures, along with exposure to Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism, in an unfamiliar place with a language I couldn’t decipher. I worked alongside volunteers at an orphanage where I learned that true love and dedication are fickle things; things that needed to be extended fairly to all of the orphans, even the ones that pull your hair and splash around in puddles of pee. My time there challenged me and showed me what I was made of, but also liberated me from myself. I’ve lived my life walking a tightrope, self-conscious of my decisions and actions and cowering in fear at the thought of messing up. Sri Lanka made me look down and realize I was scared of a tightrope a foot above the ground. I saw that if I fell, I could get right back up and keep moving forward with more experience and a lesson learned.

Singapore, in contrast, was a wakeup call: I had been traveling around a third world country, taking cold showers and dreaming under mosquito nets, catching rides on roaring, packed buses and haggling tooth and nail in the markets; now I was thrown into the hustle and bustle I had known so well what seemed like a lifetime ago, aka three months. Chic malls towered over me and mocked my flowing hippie skirt and battered sandals during my exploration of the small city-country for a week while I awaited my Indonesian visa. Sure, I’ll admit I missed hot water and toasted bread, but all of this luxury? It was disorienting; even when I was toured around by some passionate Singaporean friends did I lack the enthusiasm for this clean and orderly society. Don’t get me wrong— Singapore is a proud sight to behold… But it wasn’t for me.

This strange disdain bled into my first month in Bali, Indonesia, which I spent in Ubud. For the month of December I rolled my eyes at tourists paying for overly priced meals and thinking they were spiritual because they attended a yoga course given by a westerner. January could not come quickly enough when I found myself transported to my definition of paradise: a small rural village in the northern region of Karangasem. I lived with a fluctuating number of volunteers in a small school where we taught English, next to the family that founded it, for four months. And I flourished. I found a home where previously I had considered myself nomadic; I learned to love the hard working, wonderful kids who brightened my day, every day, with a simple laugh or hug; I found spirituality surrounded by a people so dedicated to their beautiful religion, bowing my head and praying in my sarong for the first time in months. I marveled at the transparency of a smile, the way it communicates in any and every language and helped me connect with those I couldn’t understand verbally. I shared stories and emotions and laughter with people from all over the world; I cared about the locals and they graciously welcomed me into their community.

rainrain

Here’s the thing I learned about traveling and volunteering— it’s a selfish thing. It’s the best and healthiest selfishness in the world. Sure, I was there to teach English. And considering the school’s students depended on the tourism industry to live successful futures, I’d say I was contributing. But that wasn’t the point, not completely. Traveling and experiencing another country and culture first hand— it made me aware. It exposed me to human mindfulness and the wonderful feats that humanity is capable of. I was surrounded with so much love and joy that every morning my eyes flew open with a gratitude for being alive; for having been able to experience what I did.

I am no savior and I am not special for what I did. It is not a difficult thing to do, really. At 18 years old, I had no special skill to offer; all I had was my positivity and perspective and enthusiasm. Now, I’m back in the US with a completely new way of looking at and appreciating life, one that I hope will carry me through my ambitions and goals in life. And I’m more than sure it will.

***

Gaby Alemán is a UniversalGiving Ambassador.

Thinking About Volunteering Abroad? Here is Everything You Need to Know

experteering photo

 

We had the chance to sit down with Mark Horoszowski, CEO and co-founders of MovingWorlds, to learn more about the “Experteering” movement, and share some best practice for anybody interested in volunteering overseas.

Mark Horoszowski

First… Why do people volunteer their skills abroad?

We see people go for any number of reasons. Graduate students looking for practical experience, young professionals looking to gain international exposure, career switchers looking for something new, and early retirees looking to give back are a few of the ones we hear the most common, but we’ve also seen people go Experteering in their country of origin to reconnect with their culture, and travelers do it as a way to gain a more immersive experience.

The common thing here is that there is shared value – people recognize that they can help, but that they can also benefit in the process. This is one of the reasons we encourage people to be a little selfish in their service.

 

What are the most common types of skills-based volunteer projects overseas that you call “Experteering”?

We typically see people enter one of the following project categories:

 

Training: Leading one-on-one and one-to-many sessions with an organization or group organizations to help teach a specific skill or tool. These are typically 1 – 4 weeks long.

 

Doing: Supporting an organization with a specific task that has a clear deliverable, like designing a new website, developing a marketing plan, creating an engineering schematic, or another skills-based project. These are typically 2 – 8 weeks.

 

Consulting: Immersing yourself in a specific opportunity or challenge area to propose a clear plan of action to the organization to help them grow, giving yourself enough time to learn community and cultural contexts. Typical length of 3 – 12 weeks.

 

Team member: Become a core team member for a specific length of time for a specific business area, like marketing, operations, engineering, etc. Typical length of 12 + weeks.

 

What kind of people can go Experteering?

Anybody, as long as they have demonstrable experience in a specific area. We’ve had videographers still in college go work on projects, and we’ve also helped place retired accountants.

 

What are 5 of the most popular do’s and don’ts of international volunteering?

  1. Do spend adequate time planning. We have an online training to help people prepare mentally for this type of trip.
  2. Do build a partnership with your hosting organization and team
  3. Do spend a lot of time trying to understand the cultural context of the country AND organization you’re going to support
  4. Do think about the LONG TERM impact. At MovingWorlds, we say that success happens one year after you leave… focus on developing the skills and competencies of others.
  5. Do take time to reflect on your experience. In fact, we recommend people engage a mentor or coach as part of their experience and take time to set goals, document their trip, and reflect on it once they return home.

 

  1. Don’t go in there and think you have the answers. If you want to help someone, shut-up and listen.
  2. Don’t ignore the importance of cultural differences, and how they affect communication.
  3. Don’t start without a plan. The number one reason trips don’t go well is because people don’t take adequate time to plan
  4. Don’t go before you know. If you haven’t talked to the people you’ll be volunteering abroad with, don’t buy a plane ticket
  5. Don’t rush it – this is an experience of a lifetime. Be picky about the organization you volunteer with and spend time planning to truly make sure it’s a transformative experience for all parties.

 

We have some other great tips in this article from Why Dev.

 

Why do many organizations charge you to volunteer overseas, and why is MovingWorlds different?

Many organizations charge you to volunteer because it’s how they make money. In other words, they’re not after your skills or knowhow, they are after your dollars. In exchange, they can give you an interesting experience. But sometimes, this creates really bad incentives and major ethical dilemmas.

 

At MovingWorlds, we do things differently – our organizations never charge you to volunteer because they really need your skills. Often times, they even give you a free place to live while you’re overseas. One article about us said it best, “Voluntourism can’t solve real problems, that’s where Experteers come in”. Because of the care and attention we provide every match, we do charge a membership fee – fully guaranteed and refundable – so that we can support you in finding a project that matches your real skills. Beyond helping you find a project, we walk you through a complete process to help you make a real impact, and provide plenty of resources to equip you for a life-enriching trip.

 

In 2010, you spent a year traveling and volunteering around the world before MovingWorlds was even an idea… what’s one piece of more personal advice you would give to anybody volunteering overseas?

 

Be humble. Even if you’re going to volunteer your skills and think you’re an expert, be ridiculously humble. The cultural differences you’ll be working in are so vast that you’ll find it challenging to actually be impactful if you don’t embrace that. And not only that, but there is so much to learn from people you go Experteering with… provided you have an open mind.

Unselfish Love

By Brittany Duke

When I blindly plunge my hand into the ceramic shell bowl on my dresser and my fingers close around a small gold stone ring, I’m reminded of my 16th birthday. For reasons different that most people’s the week I turned 16 was life-altering. Instead of a lavish “Sweet 16” party I spent the week in Haiti learning about how people survive in orphanages that are severely underfunded and concrete villages without electricity. The poorest country in the world by many estimates is one without social nets designed to help others from falling into extreme poverty. Unlike the United States, extreme poverty is not unusual or cause for great concern.

As we arrived to the orphanage we visited, people in our mission group began snapping pictures of the children in faded and torn school uniforms as though they were exotic animals on a safari. It was difficult watching people that had the latest iPhone and luxury car waiting in their garage try to relate to these children. Asking their favorite toy or activity quickly became an awkward experience. Unlike five year olds in the US who can easily identify their favorite organized sport, favorite TV show, favorite electronic toy, these children were amazed by the ability to take pictures of themselves on our phones.</p

As time passed, privileged adults began to relate to the children on a basic level of love. The language barriers were quickly forgotten and soon small dark hands fitted easily into larger white ones as the children dragged the adults to their rooms and proudly showed off the bunk beds they shared with so many others. Young children had the signature dirt stains on their knees telling the story of the baseball they loved to play with a stick and a cloth tied together. Everything became a game of “how can we make this a toy.” My shoelaces were quickly removed and two young girls with plaits in their hair started jumping rope with it. Our electronics were quickly put to use by the Haitian kids and photos have never been taken with more frequency or excitement than that day.

Many of the children gathered around kissing your cheek, holding your hand, sitting on your lap vying for attention. The whole combine that they lived in was open-air, had dirt floors, and three small structures that would have been called shacks by United States standards. They showed us the chipped colored concrete wall about 3 feet high separated the two classrooms, which had desks that were shared by as many as three children. The blackboard in the front held lessons ranging from learning about the alphabet to geometry. When asking a small boy in the signature green and see-through white shirt what he enjoyed the most he pointed to the small outdoor classroom with a smile across his face. The opportunity to get an education is rare in Haiti.

At noon the teachers and caretakers started cooking in an open air kitchen and 15 minutes later the large rusty bronze bell was rung to tell everyone the food was ready to be eaten. Each student grabbed a slightly dirty looking plastic bowl with designs on the side from a shelf in the common room that served as a dining area. One small girl waited in line for her food, dwarfed by the larger children on either side, received her food and came running over with a large smile and gave me the bowl. Upon inspection, the bowl contained rice mixed in with some sort of meat and some small green cubes which served as their vegetables for the day. These children get two meals a day; this was the large afternoon meal which by American standards would be a side dish. I shook my head and said thank you, but I would really like it if she would eat the food. I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat, and I haven’t ever eaten out of a bowl that is cleaned with sand and unpurified water. I also have access to food at any time during the day. But the lesson to be learned wasn’t about the food or bowl, it was the act of unselfish love and giving. This girl was willing to go without eating that afternoon if I had accepted her offering. With no thought for herself she gave unselfishly and from her heart. It is easy to give from our abundance and donate our cast-offs to the nearest goodwill after we have no more use for an item of clothing; however, the act of giving by the small Haitian girl in a wrinkled and stained white and green school uniform dress was an example of true love.

Later that day, a girl with dark hair plaited and tied with plastic clips caught my attention. She looked as if she were around 13 in her green and white dress with two buttons missing. Unlike some of the younger kids she seemed more reluctant to involve herself in the festivities. I learned she was 15 and was about to turn 16. Our birthdays were less than a week apart. It was apparent that she looked after some of the toddlers and infants and had to be one of the oldest girls at the orphanage. The more we connected the more I found out about her life. Her parents had passed away in the earthquake and she had no other family that she could turn to. The man who ran the orphanage had found a temporary place for her to stay in the wake of the tragedy and eventually provided her and about 21 other young people a place to sleep, a school, and food twice a day. She brought us over to her bed and told us she had gotten a mattress last year. She pointed to her pink mosquito net and you could see the pride spread across her face. The room she shared with nine other younger girls had roughly hewed concrete walls with open windows and no air conditioning. To contrast our upbringing and experiences, I was born into a privileged middle class family, attended private school since the age of four, enjoy traveling with my family, and have an air conditioned room with a mattress which I never fully appreciated until the week of my 16th birthday. After showing us her room she began to chant and move her body to the beat of her chant. She inquired whether or not we would like to take a video of her performance and so we dutifully pulled out our phones and recorded a song and dance that was amazing. She told me that if she was able to choose what she could do with her life that she would love to be able to be a famous singer. With a smile on my face I confidently assured her with my parent’s catchphrase, “you can do anything you set your mind to.” Her head moved back and forth and we got a wakeup call as to the lack of opportunity she has in her life. She isn’t told by anyone that she can accomplish anything, or be anything that she wants to be. That mattress in her open-air room, at the orphanage will probably be the best accommodations she has for a long time after she leaves and moves out on her own. She explained she was planning to get a job working a fruit stand with her friend. She hoped to make enough money to live off of it, however it all depended if she had a good day at the market.

The competition is ruthless in the markets they sell food in. The one market we visited overwhelmed all of my senses. It was possible to hear the yelling of the vendors from half a mile away. Each vendor fought seemingly to the death to try and get you to buy what they were selling. Hands grabbed at me as if I was the newest game flying off the shelves of a store. Each seller tried to persuade me to buy their goods by dragging me as close to their stand as possible. The initial fear of being moved against my own will left after I became aware of the cultural selling practices. The smell was overwhelming, there were aromas of spices mixed with sweat and you immediately knew showering was viewed as a luxury, not a necessity. Although it was impossible to buy something from every single seller that particular day I was blown away by the desire and will to succeed. Each person was fighting for survival and if that meant groveling over the price for a good and trying to sell a classic Haitian piece of art to a tourist they were willing to do anything necessary to assure they would get the sale and be able to support their family for another day.

When there are hard experiences of my life I’m often reminded of a phrase a mentor shared with me, “that’s a first world problem.” Everything is put into perspective when you realize how little others have. For my 16th birthday I received a few presents, one of them being a gold ring which will always be a symbol of abundance and a lesson I learned from a 15-year-old girl in Haiti. To take any opportunity I have for granted would be inexplicable after this experience. If this Haitian girl, as able to express such a gratitude for what she had, meant I was able to take advantage of every opportunity given and give thanks for everything, no matter how small. The true genuine love expressed by so many was an amazing takeaway, whether it was a girl trying to give me her food or a man trying to sell some good in order to take care of his family. The experience was life-altering and I will always be reminded of the time I was immersed in another culture and learned more about myself in the process.