You would think that, as a traveler, offering your services for free for humanitarian purposes would be in high demand. And you might also think, if you’ve never sought out volunteer experiences in foreign countries, that volunteering would be a free activity. But unfortunately, volunteering does often cost something. As someone who’s coordinated large numbers of volunteers for big events, I understand the reason why volunteer programs cost something and as someone who organizes volunteer activities in Mexico and other areas of the world, I also try to make volunteer experiences as affordable and truly enriching as possible for the volunteers.
The reason why many volunteer activities in foreign countries cost something is because a lot of volunteers don’t really intend to do a lot of work during their short tenure with an organization. If you’re reading this article, you probably aren’t one of these people. You probably fully intend to dig in and get your hands dirty doing volunteer work if given the opportunity. But the truth is, it takes time to train volunteers and it takes manpower to watch over them when they’re doing different activities. Watching over a number of volunteers who are hoping for an “enriching experience” that costs nothing can be seriously debilitating for organizations that honestly intend to do something good in the world.
I have organized events that require large numbers of volunteers and I’ve also worked as a volunteer for events that I did not organize. I know from my own experience as a volunteer that there’s nothing worse than donating my time to do nothing or to do something that does not matter and that will not actually be of use to anyone in the world. It takes time and energy to put together high-quality, productive volunteer opportunities for people. But there’s a give-and-take to volunteering. Volunteers have to be willing to work hard at (typically) unskilled labor that requires little training. Organizations have to be willing and able (in terms of human resources and funding) to do a small amount of training and supervision of volunteers. The problem is, many volunteers aren’t as industrious as they are idealistic (and in pursuit of the perfect selfie to prove the depth of their altruism). And many organizations aren’t as altruistic as they are profit-centric. The intersection between these two problems is the reason why volunteering often costs something in foreign countries.
At the Devela Worldschool Community, we invite worldschooling families to participate as volunteers for our Halloween event. And we are also offering volunteer opportunities doing construction and landscaping tasks at Encino Park. We ask that families participate in our community beyond just the volunteer activities and we also reserve the right to dismiss volunteer participants who don’t contribute to a safe theatrical environment that we try to create each night of the Halloween event in October. The volunteer activities that we have planned here in Guanajuato in 2020 require effort and work, but the work is fun and unusual. Teens are invited to volunteer and of course, we need adults to volunteer too (in part to watch over the teens). Families with younger kids can also volunteer as a unit as long as they keep close watch over their children and maintain respect for the surrounding culture. We aren’t responsible for the safety of our volunteers, but we do provide a lot of training and we focus on safety during the event. It is, however, up to each volunteer to make wise, safety-conscious decisions for themselves during the event.
We hope to keep our volunteer program at Devela free to participating families, but our ability to do this will depend on the volunteers themselves and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and help us renovate the park and raise funds to maintain it. There is a give-and-take to volunteering and when volunteers perform well and demonstrate a high work ethic, it makes volunteering more accessible to others. And when volunteering is accessible and affordable for travelers (because the travelers work hard and offer much-needed services) who go to impoverished regions of the world, volunteering can make the world a better place.
So if you’re a worldschooling family and you hope to volunteer in Mexico, we invite you to participate in the Devela Worldschool Community by taking classes, workshops, or participating in construction-related volunteer activities at the park. As we get to know the worldschooling families who are out there traveling the world, we’ll be developing additional volunteer opportunities to skilled volunteers who are interested in sharing their native language to Mexican students or teachers of other subjects who would enjoy volunteering to educate both locals and worldschooling kids.
Be aware that some countries require a special visa if you plan to volunteer as a worldschool family. Mexico, luckily, is NOT one of these countries!
For more information about volunteering, contact Jennifer Shipp at firstname.lastname@example.org. We do not offer free lodging or any other free services in exchange for volunteering because our volunteer program requires a lot of energy and organization by our staff, but if you’re interested in volunteering merely to get involved, we’d love to hear from you!