Our Volunteer Guide to the
Mental and Emotional Preparation
We are fortunate enough to have volunteers joining us from the United States, Canada and all over the world. Without having a chance to meet each person individually and learn their different objectives and perspectives of what a service trip of this nature is all about, it's hard to know what will best prepare everyone for this experience. However, here are a few simple suggestions we have for everyone joining us to be mentally and emotionally prepared for your Outreach360 trip.
Not a Vacation
This is not a vacation! Perhaps because we’ve been operating for a number of years, we have a professional website, we send our regular newsletters, and have so many positive reviews, people sometimes believe this is a sort of "Disney Land trip" through the developing world. Sometimes volunteers come in expecting a high level of quality control, consistency, a significant support staff, a corporate program and more. It is not always that way. You are participating in a very unpredictable, self-generating, self-directed program in a developing country. You will be part of a group of individuals working together to provide opportunities for underserved communities.
Expect the Unexpected
Your next Outreach360 experience will be like no experience before it or after it. If you are volunteering with Outreach360 for the second, third, or fourth time, expect a completely different experience. It will not be a repeat of your first trip. Be prepared for frustration, breakdowns, discomfort, and more. But also be prepared for an unforgettable trip full of life-changing experiences, little and big.
Things will not happen as you hope and plan. Be like Gumby and adjust. If the bus breaks down, open the window and enjoy the breeze while you take a nap. If the power goes out, enjoy the romantic candles. If the cement isn't there to pour the floor, play some catch with one of the kids. If the toilets aren’t working, enjoy the walk into the restaurant in town.
You’ll essentially be camping in a building. Our facilities are simple, but they have everything you need. You will be sharing dormitory-style rooms with bunk beds. Each bed is equipped with sheets, a blanket, a pillow with a pillowcase, and a mosquito net. The bathrooms are also shared but are modern. See more on our accommodations here.
Don't Worry, Be Happy
This is going to be a fun and happy trip! If you are prepared for a serious, hard-working, difficult trip to a poor, impoverished country, please adjust your expectations. You may see things that will shock you, living conditions that are unacceptable, and standards that aren’t fair. However, everything that we do on this trip is to provide positive opportunities that our students would otherwise go without. There is always more to do, that's why Outreach360 works hard every day to involve more and more donors and volunteers. Enjoy the time you have with the students. Your fun energy and positivity is a major reason why they choose to be a part of Outreach360's educational programming.
Progress Isn't Always Tangible
Intangible successes are just as important as tangible progress. It’s easy to solely focus on what you're going to accomplish on your service trip (i.e. "What are they going to do with my donations?" "Why aren't we doing construction projects?" etc.) We encourage you to also focus on the intangible. The students probably won't remember who built the bookshelves, but they will remember who sat down with them to read their favorite book. After all, the kids are the whole reason why we're there.
Remember that we are not there to be babysitters, nannies, or caretakers. We are seen as professional teachers in the communities we serve and we strive to act that way. That's why we encourage you to not become too attached to one particular child. Please be friendly and affectionate, without being too affectionate. It’s very important to develop relationships with the students during your trip, and natural for us and them to be sad when we have to leave. It isn’t natural for one particular child to be upset because one particular volunteer is leaving. It’s only happened a couple of times, so it’s not something to be fearful of, but something to be aware of and to avoid.
Know Your Objectives
Come into this trip knowing your goals. You are responsible for achieving your objectives, so consider writing them down, and be ready to share them with the team. If you don’t know why you’re going on this trip, please spend some time to figure it out. Our primary objective is fulfilling our mission with the students in our program but we also want you to get as much out of this experience as possible. When you know what you hope to gain, then we, alongside your team members, can assist you in whatever way we can towards reaching that goal. Ultimately, you are responsible for the fulfillment of the objectives of your trip, which also means you are responsible for communicating with us if it’s not happening. This is a very important point. You are investing heavily in this experience. If your objective is to take a break, know it. If it’s to make a difference to one child, know it. If it’s to leave a lasting impact, know it.
You may be surprised by the items listed above and have questions or concerns. If so, please contact us.