Our Volunteer Guide to the
People sign up for an Outreach360 trip to make a difference in the lives of our students. And you will make a huge difference during your trip and with the program donation that you're working so hard to raise. But there is also a lot available for you to learn and gain from the trip. It’s why volunteers often feel at the end of the experience that they've received more from the trip than what they were able to give. To maximize our volunteers' experience, we have using ten guiding principles for over twenty years. Please take some time to review and reflect on these now. Your Outreach360 leaders will also discuss these with you during orientation, and refer to them throughout the week.
Acknowledge yourself for the difference you are making. Very few people are willing to do what you have done: raise and donate funds, take a week or more of your time, give up other options you had for this time (skiing, the beach, work, etc) to volunteer for the benefit of kids you don’t know. Many of you likely had to overcome fears and obstacles to make this trip possible (i.e. a different language, not knowing anyone, only knowing Outreach360 from the internet, parent’s concerns, etc.) It’s a big deal that you are volunteering with Outreach360. Our programs would not exist without you. Celebrate the difference you are making!
You are Outreach360
There is no big staff of Outreach360 employees doing work. Nothing happens without you; the majority of funds and labor come from our incredible volunteers. From our standpoint, you aren’t here to "help” Outreach360, you are Outreach360.
It's Not About You
As generous as you are, sometimes your time with us can become about you. “What difference am I going to make?," “How can I optimize the use of my time," “I can’t speak the language,"
"There's not enough free time,”, “When will my donated items be used?” Focus on the big picture, the difference you are making as a group. Take the focus off of you, and enjoy the impact the kids are receiving. One example: reading a story to one of the little boys in the Learning Center may not be the best utilization of your skill, but it means the world to the boy.
This Is It
Most of the time, North Americans are living in the future. Kids are waiting for high school, high-schoolers are waiting for college, college students are waiting to graduate and get a job, single people are waiting to get married, etc. People don’t live that way in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua; they live much more for each day. This is a unique opportunity to really live in the present; forget about worries at home, forget about tomorrow, quit thinking about what lasting impact you are having. Just enjoy the present moment.
It is not necessary to know Spanish to be involved with the kids and to make a difference. We’ve had many volunteers who spoke no Spanish make a huge difference with the kids and had a great time; we’ve had other volunteers fluent in Spanish get frustrated because of the unique local words, expressions, and dialect. The experience is totally what you make of it. No matter how much Spanish we know, we always wish we knew more. What you know is what you know, so make the best of it. Don’t let your lack of Spanish be an excuse to not get involved.
Poco a Poco
Poco a poco means little by little in Spanish. The fact is you can’t change the world in a week, but you can make a world of a difference in one or more of our students' lives. Don’t be frustrated by the slow progress; great things happen little by little. Your contributions this week, along with the volunteers who came before you and the volunteers who will come after you, are making a huge difference.
Jump Right In
You’ve got a short period of time here. Don’t spend a day or two getting to know what is going on. Jump right in, be assertive, do what you came here to do. If you wait till you've got it all figured out, your time will be over.
Serve, Don't Help
There’s a subtle difference between serving and helping. We’re here to serve, not to help. These are not poor, sick, helpless people who need our help. They have strengths and blessings to share with us and we have strengths and blessings we cans share with them. It’s a two-way street.
Be Flexible & Creative
Living and working in the developing world requires flexibility and creativity and that is true for the communities we serve in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Practice it and enjoy it! You already have all the skills you need to be effective and productive in our programs.
You are Responsible
The experience you have with Outreach360 is up to you. You need to take responsibility for your experience. Do not look to the leaders to give you the experience you're looking for, but rather utilize them as a resource. Communicate with the Outreach360 leaders; they will support and facilitate your work. But you are ultimately responsible.