Volunteering is hard work and takes a certain level of patience and flexibility. Anyone can volunteer but not everyone will be great at it. There are various characteristics that add up to make a great volunteer.
To be successful in your endeavors as a volunteer, you have to have the resolve to see things through. It does not matter if you are volunteering domestically or abroad, there are going to be bumps in the road. If you possess the determination to reach your goals and work on your project to the best of your abilities, you will get through the challenges presented to you along the way. Lack of determination will make any challenge seem insurmountable.
Commitment goes hand-in-hand with determination. You need to be committed to your project, your cause, and your reasons for becoming a volunteer. Things will not always go the way you planned and there are going to be times when you will want to give up. This is normal. But if you lack commitment to your assignment, you will give in to defeat. Your commitment to your project as well as personal goals will help you stay focused on what is important.
To be a volunteer, you have to have an imagination. The problems and challenges you encounter on a daily basis will be ones you have never faced with before. You will need to be creative with your problem-solving, communication, and teaching methods. If you are volunteering abroad, you may have to explain things several times, several different ways to communicate your idea. To be cliché- think outside the box. The more creative you get, the easier it is going to be to get around obstacles.
Simply put, you need to love what you do. Your passion will help you stay committed, which in turn will help you ride out the rough patches of your volunteer service. This is why choosing a project you that genuinely interests you in a field you want to learn more about is so important. Do not choose projects based on popularity or because your friends did it. You need to really care about what you are doing.
It is not the challenges you face, but how you bounce back that will make or break you. If you give up easily in the face of adversity, volunteering, especially abroad, is not for you. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I am not ashamed to tell you my failures far outnumbered my successes. However, it was my ability to learn from my mistakes and to not let my failures get the better of me that lead to my successes.
You will need to be able to organize facts, documents, and data, not only for your project but for your personal use as well. Remember that your community and co-workers are watching and learning from you. Being organized is helpful skill to have and if your community sees how well you document meetings, project data, etc, they will learn to do the same. You will want to document all your activities and outcomes as well, so you can look back later and add important skills and experiences to your resume.
You are going to be surrounded by people who hold different ideals and beliefs than you. You need to be open enough to accept the differences, even if you do not agree with them. You have to find a way to not only work with all types of people, but to learn from them.