Modern volunteers are different from those who first came to the poor countries with their volunteering missions. Nowadays there is broad choice of organisations offering volunteering services like GoBrazil. All what you need to do is to register and find the way to cover living costs, the rest will be organised for you. Young volunteers became so spoiled that complain a lot that volunteering doesn´t go as they expect it. They complain about the lack of organisation, lack of attention, lack of resources, lack of impact their service is supposed to have.
Wikipedia says: “Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect”.
Many future volunteers only pay attention to the second part, forgetting that the main word here is “activity”. First goes activity, the return goes after. I would even say pro-activity. In order to be proactive, the volunteer needs to be aware what is waiting for him/her. When you come to the country like Brazil, to the poor region like Alagoas you have to be ready for the following:
It is hot. Most probably in the places where you will work as a volunteer will be no air conditioning. You will be extremely lucky if there is.
The quality of public services are far from developed countries. The public transport is not scheduled and buses are full. The groceries shops have poor assortment with preference to unhealthy junk food. So probably you will not find here your favorite low-fat yogurt.
There are often power outages and (YES!!!) absence of Internet!
Lack of resources
Your dream was to reconstruct the school or kindergarten. You already imagined yourself painting the walls with kids, creating colorful pictures … When you came you realized that there is no tints. So you need to be ready to organize some fundraising action or find somebody to donate the tints.
No exact work instructions
It is rare that the NGOs are waiting for volunteers with the exact working plan. Sometimes they themselves don´t know what needs to be done because of lack of competence. You really need to be proactive and creative to identify the opportunities for application of your skills and realization of those opportunities. On the one hand it is hard, on the other – you are free to take decisions, can work independently and receive more satisfaction in return, when you see your project coming true.
Resistance from locals
It is good that NGOs sometimes have open-minded directors who receive volunteers and are open to the changes they offer, know-hows, new ideas and projects. However, the majority of the employees are not like that. New project for them – new effort. They are comfortable doing things the way they used to do, their own Brazilian way (see Jeitinho Brasileiro) and see you as a threat to their comfort zone.
Nevertheless, you don´t have to be afraid of those obstacles. In the developed world you barely find enough challenges which can teach you life, take responsibility and can make you stronger person. In reality you get much more in return than just a feeling of self-worth and respect.
You are free to choose what are you gonna do next holidays – book all-inclusive hotel on the beach or take up the challenges and go to Brazil to volunteer!
Check the list of volunteering opportunities from GoBrazil: Volunteering projects in Brazil.