Before you respond to an emergency or join a volunteer activity, it is paramount that you understand the challenges you may encounter when volunteering. No matter how good your intention is, it’s never advisable for any individual to offer themselves up for a cause or an event without taking the necessary preparation and precaution.
While organizers and non-profits will do whatever it takes to ensure the health and safety of its volunteers, there are certain things that even they won’t be able to control without your initiative and cooperation. With that said, here are some tips that would help you, as a volunteer, manage and reduce the risks that may come with your volunteer work.
Review the event summary
Any responsible organizer would make a summary of the volunteer opportunity and have it accessible to all participants. On our website, for example, our non-profit organization (NPO) partners make sure that their events are as detailed and as straightforward as possible. It’s a standard for them to include a thorough description of the roles they need, location and contact details, as well as the time and duration of their event.
You can use these information to plan your schedule ahead of time. I also recommend to review the summary so that you can sort out anything that might come across as confusing. Whether you are commuting or driving, plan your preferred route and prepare countermeasures in case something comes up on your way to the venue.
Take note of communication details so that you’ll have access to the organizers when needed. This way, any of your concerns will be addressed timely and accurately by the people who are most qualified to do so.
Finally, conduct some personal research. While it’s the priority of the NPO to keep you safe and fulfilled during their event, there’s always that factor of unpredictability. Mitigate the risks by coming in with substantial preparation and understanding of the event you’ll be joining.
Attend pre-event orientations or training
Depending on the weight of the task, you may be asked to attend a health and security training by the non-profit who organized the event. Otherwise, you can expect some form of volunteer education or introduction before or during the event itself.
NPOs also conduct such orientation to introduce you to their organization and to an extent, to your co-volunteers. If you sign-up for an event, it’ll be your responsibility to attend any required orientation. If not, your eligibility to participate on the volunteering event could be put on hold.
If for some reason you may have to forfeit, your slot may still be given to another volunteer. But only if the organizers have enough time to call for a replacement. Professionalism works both ways when volunteering. If anything comes up, consider finding another way to support the cause or be prompt with cancellation if that can’t be helped.
Wait for instructions and proceed with respect
Even experienced volunteers would tell you that each community is different. Which is another reason why pre-departure orientations really matter in this field. When doing volunteer work, it’s important to stick to the guidelines and treat everyone you meet with respect. For example, some communities may be more sensitive than the rest due to their tradition and origin, while others will accommodate a lighter and carefree approach.
Be sure that you understand how to dress, behave, and communicate in a way that shows respect for the culture you’re volunteering in. Be open to adjust and adhere to some ground rules or traditions.
When in doubt, don’t hesitate to raise any concern to the senior volunteers and local organizers. Don’t overrule what you are assigned to do unless there’s a strong reason to do so or there is prior approval. In turn, be mindful that you have the right to decline a reassignment if you’re not comfortable with the new task or you think that it’s completely out of your skill set.
Look out for yourself and your belongings
It’s hard not to get lost in the moment when you’re out there volunteering with everyone. This, unfortunately, can leave us vulnerable to opportunists and mishaps.
For starters, only bring what is needed on the day of the event. If you can pack lightly, then do so. Most volunteer drives won’t really require you to bring loads of stuff unless the call was for donations. If you ever need to bring documents, make backups so that you won’t be totally taken aback when something unexpected happens. Keep your belongings close or leave it only to an authorized personnel.
If you notice anything suspicious within the premise, report that activity to any of the local team. Wear your identification at all times and avoid extended engagement with anyone that doesn’t seem like a part of the team or community.
In addition, do not overextend or move too far away from everyone else. If you see the need to respond to something that’s out of the designated location, bring a co-volunteer or staff with you. Coordinate accordingly with the right people if you are taking an action that don’t fall within the scope of your duty.
Enjoy your volunteering experience
Safety depends to a large extent on the personal characteristics of each volunteer, in particular solidarity with and respect for other volunteers, the remote team, and the community.
Once you’re set and have fully understood your duties as a volunteer, all you really need to do is cooperate with the rest of the team to help make sure that everyone involved will be safe and healthy throughout the activity.
To have the best volunteering experience, don’t forget to look out for yourself as much as you look out for others. Prep yourself for the task, clear your checklist, and eliminate the simplest threats by being proactive and well-informed.
Now that you’re good to go, come visit our website for more volunteering opportunities that are designed to keep you safe, fulfilled, and by the end of it, a certified Everyday Filipino Hero.