I have spent 4 months in total now volunteering with All Hands and I have seen many volunteers come and go. I’ve met some great people who give it their all plus a little extra and I’ve seen some not-so-great people who talk about how hard they work instead of actually doing anything.
Want to make the most of your experience on project, here are some ideas.
Don’t be a whiner- You voluntarily signed up to come volunteer for a disaster relief organization. That means a huge natural disaster just happened so things might be a little chaotic. Food might not be to your liking, beds might be hard, or hot water might be nonexistent, but that is exactly what you signed up for. Plus whining does nothing to solve any of those inconveniences.
Do your share- Communal living is tough. There will always be people who won’t do their part and others have to pick up their slack. Please don’t one of those people. Do your part, then do a little more. It helps keep the base clean and functional. Also, lend a hand -if you notice something needs to be replenished, just take care of it.
Be welcoming and friendly- Say hello. Say good morning. Smile. New volunteers arrive on project almost daily and for many this is their first project. It all can be a bit overwhelming at first and it goes a long way if someone checks in on you to make sure you have everything you need or to ask if you’d like to walk to town together.
Work hard– Most likely the work you will do with All Hands is 1,000 times more physically demanding than anything you’ve ever experienced before. Remember this is what you signed up for (please, please, please don’t tell me you’re only here because of the free room and board), so no excuses, jump in and work your ass off.
Be prepared– Be on time, be prepared, work hard, and bring snacks. Don’t keep people waiting, it’s rude.
Share your skills– Let the staff know what your special skills you have and you may be able to help the project out in a non-traditional manner. I’ve seen a paramedic lead first aid trainings, an electrician make improvements to base, and a welder build an oven. Sharing is caring.
Be kind to the staff– Remember the staff is there to run the project, not to cater to your every need. Keep in mind that they work 12+ hours a day, 6 days a week, so don’t bombard them with questions at 5:30 in the morning when they are cooking their breakfast, as they are sitting down to dinner, or on the day off. And bring them chocolate!
Become more involved– If you are staying on project for longer than a couple weeks consider becoming a team leader or base manager to learn more about work in the community and within the organization.
Become more invested– Want to support your project with more than just your time? Fundraising is a great way to raise awareness for the project you are volunteering on and to get your family and friends involved.