If you want to join the growing number of young people who volunteer in Europe and across the world, there are many places online where you can choose the best opportunity for you!
Looking for volunteering opportunities?
Anyone can volunteer. All you need are motivation, compassion and the willingness to work and learn from the people in the community.
There are many reasons why people decide to volunteer, usually to give something back and make a difference in the lives of others. No matter when you decide to volunteer, or what you decide to do, it will bring you countless benefits. And by doing it you will be making a real difference in the lives of individuals, the community and the environment. You will have the chance to meet new people, while raising your social awareness.
A volunteering experience can also benefit your professional career, as you will develop and learn new social, technical, team-building and problem-solving skills.
Where to look:
Do you want volunteer but can’t really go anywhere? Does your free time fall at unconventional hours? Give online volunteering a shot and commit your time and skills to benefit society over the Internet.
If onsite volunteering is particularly difficult for you because of a disability, home obligation, transport difficulties or work schedule, you could consider volunteering online. If you have a computer, an Internet connection and the right skills, this might be the option for you.
Your tasks as an online volunteer will depend on your skills and expertise. You can design flyers, maintain a web site, translate text, edit video, design a database, manage online social networking activities or write code for software. You can also simply give expert advice (for example, in law or education), answer emails for an organisation or conduct research.
Where to look
Bear in mind that online volunteering is real volunteering and requires real time and real commitment and involves real deadlines. Although it’s very easy to say yes to volunteering over the Internet, be sure that you really have the spare time necessary to complete the assignments you commit to.
Online volunteering is not meant to replace face-to-face volunteering, so you can still do both if you have the time.
United Nations Volunteers – Volunteering for peace and development
Are you interested in development, humanitarian action and peacekeeping? Why not become one of 8,000 UN volunteers helping to tackle development challenges worldwide?
UNV (United Nations Volunteers) is active in around 130 countries.
Can you apply?
To be eligible to be a UN Volunteer, you must be at least 25 years old and have:
"Now I look back and feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as a UN Volunteer with the GEF-SGP in Nicaragua. Helping local communities face challenges in their everyday lives through the implementation of projects determined by them is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn and gather lessons from community-level experiences. It also allows for the sharing of best practices among development aid actors, making an impact on a regional or global scale."
Antonia Cermak Terzian (Switzerland) collaborated as an UN Volunteer Intern in Nicaragua between February 2011 and February 2012.
How to apply?
If you meet all the requirements, go straight to the UNV registration form. Bear in mind that you might not have a choice of duty station: this will depend on operational requirements, and you might not find out where you will be posted until after you have been recruited.
There is no way of knowing exactly how long you will have to wait between registering in the database and receiving a call to a possible volunteer opportunity. Registration in the database does not guarantee that you will receive an assignment as a UN Volunteer.
What are the main assignment conditions?
The vast majority of UNV assignments are based on 6-12 month renewable contracts.
UN Volunteers receive support during their assignment in several ways, e.g. through a monthly volunteer living allowance, annual leave, and medical insurance.
Finally, there are many ways for former UN Volunteers to keep in touch with each other and stay involved, to advocate for volunteerism for peace and development or mobilise others to volunteer.
Work Camps – focus your efforts!
Ever heard of work camps? Don’t worry, there is no forced labour involved! If you are over 18 it can be a great opportunity for you to help a community in need while absorbing their culture and habits.
A work camp is a group of 8 to 20 international volunteers from five or so different countries who work together to help a local community with a project for 2-4 weeks. The camps are hosted by local communities, peace organisations, environmental groups, solidarity groups, community action groups, non-profit associations, and others who are interested in the impact that an international group can have on their community. They are a great way to make new friends, complete a meaningful project and increase your international understanding. Don't forget, though, that work camps are not holiday camps, so make sure you are joining for the right reasons!
My experience was a very positive one. I had many opportunities to see just how welcoming people of this host country can be to strangers and to those of a different culture. Highlights from the experience included being invited to the homes of national volunteers, even attending a village wedding! Possibly we were fortunate in having very active and keen local volunteers from the host organisation…We learned much about Azeri culture and found them interested in our countries and us."
What will you do?
In a work camp, volunteers are expected to work around 30 hours a week on activities that should serve the local community or benefit the environment. This usually involves cooperative labour in rural or urban areas, that doesn’t require any particular skills. Local inhabitants often take part in the projects. You can spend your free time relaxing, preparing meals and talking, and on activities and excursions with other volunteers and the local community.
You should be prepared to live and work in a communal environment, where living conditions are often simple and work can be strenuous but fun and rewarding. Food and accommodation are usually provided, so you will need money only to cover your travel costs, the application fee to the sending organisation, and some pocket money.