Make a real difference, live for free, and experience local culture in a remarkable way by giving your greatest assets: your time, brain, and heart. Here is the story of Deana who did just that. She’s a UX designer who volunteered her skills – “Experteered” – on her vacation to support Maya Traditions, a social enterprise in Guatemala.
Maya Traditions needed help with a new website to promote its locally crafted products which are sold to create jobs and provide social programs to female workers in the area.
Deana was connected to Maya Traditions through MovingWorlds.org, a social enterprise that helps people find ethical skills-based volunteering projects, and provides training, planning support, and resources to help you make a real difference.
While on her Experteering trip, Deana brought her camera and computer, and went straight to work helping Maya Traditions plan how it could best communicate its value to potential partners. She met with the founders, workers, and beneficiaries, and also got to tour the countryside with locals.
At the end, she delivered rich photos and a website plan to Maya Traditions. Maya Traditions then found two other Experteers, a developer and web designer, to finish the website.
This is just one of hundreds of ways that people with business, technical, creative, and/or medical skills can support locally-led initiatives to create real change.
Volunteering Your Skills is Good for the World
Did you know that one of the biggest barriers to global development is a lack of access to skills? Locally-led organizations need skills in order to grow, create jobs, and serve more of their beneficiaries. In exchange for the right support, they will provide you a free place to live while traveling. Just a few examples include:
- Use marketing skills to help social-impact startups launch their product
- Apply accounting and/or finance skills to help local nonprofits prepare for grant applications
- Teach project and product management skills to small teams to become more efficient
- Use supply chain and operational skills to lower the cost of growing organizations to more efficiently deliver services and products to areas that need it the most
- Donate your photography, videography, and messaging skills to social enterprises that need help telling their story to recruit donors
- Utilize your web development skills to help startups launch mobile apps
Experteering is Also Good For You
As it turns out, volunteering has many surprising benefits, and Experteering can be even more profound. By using your skills in a new environment, you’ll better realize your strengths, help develop your own skills, and come back more innovative and confident.
In addition, because you’ll be working in partnership with local representatives, you’ll also get an incredibly immersive experience. Beyond local tours, we often hear stories about local families providing language practice, cooking lessons, and plenty of home cooked meals!
Tips to Volunteer Abroad
But before you rush to go “Experteering”, there is a right and wrong way to go volunteer your skills:
- Find an ethical, sustainable, locally-led organization that needs your skills, not your money. Depending on how long you are traveling for and what causes you care about, you can find opportunities with Omprakash, MovingWorlds, or VSO. If you plan to not work with a matching organization, make sure to read these 8 tips.
- Take a training on international volunteering best practices so you can be prepared to cross cultural differences successfully and create a sustainable impact. Both MovingWorlds.org and Serve Smart offer courses on Udemy.
- Put time and care into you planning process so that you and the hosting organization have a real plan on how to make the most of your limited time together. Here is a guide to telp you plan a safe and impactful trip. Also, check out the resources on LearningService to help with your planning.
- Take time to reflect on your experience. Done correctly, your volunteer abroad trip can be transformative to both you and your hosting organization. Make sure to reflect on your experience. Here are some tips for reflecting, and for how to showcase your work on your LinkedIn profile and resume.
When we think of taking a vacation or sabbatical, we don’t often think that working more during that time is the best way to refresh our souls, but when done for a good cause, it can open up new doors and provide a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience, that can also help your own career in the process.
Mark is co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org, a global platform that connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise with social impact organizations around the globe. Since its launch in 2011, MovingWorlds.org has already helped unleash over 1 million dollars worth of professional skills to social enterprises around the world.