Five Common Misconceptions About Volunteering

By Kirsty Petrides

If we had a penny for every time we heard someone say “Oh I can’t volunteer, I don’t have any skills” we’d have enough money to buy all the Nutella on Earth. We hear it so often, and the sad thing is, you don’t need any specific skills to help people – you just need to be a decent person. But we encounter this – and other misconceptions about volunteering – so very often.

Volunteering is a great way to not give back to the world, and also personally develop yourself. However, the myths about particular requirements stop people from doing it. So we’re here to quash them, once and for all. Here are the top five misconceptions about volunteering, and why they’re absolute nonsense.

1. “I’m too old.”

People often think that volunteering means hard manual labor, like building houses or painting school walls, and that as such, only fit young people can do it. While there are certainly some volunteer placements that are more physical, most are not at all – teaching English, sorting through donated clothes and cooking meals are just some of the tasks our volunteers do. Anyone can do that, regardless of age or agility. Furthermore, we’ve found that our older volunteers – retirees, in fact – actually do better than our younger ones, due to their maturity, knowledge and broader life perspective. So there you go – myth debunked.

2. “It’s too dangerous.”

There are definitely unsafe places out there, and that’s why Indigo does careful safety checking for all of its projects. We work with foreign affairs offices to get safety information on each of our projects, and if we deem one of them to be in a high-risk area, we don’t send volunteers there.

3. “I can’t afford it.”

This is one that breaks our heart the most. A huge myth about volunteering is that you have to pay to do it. Yes, there are many volunteer agencies out there that act as a middle-man between you and the project, and charge you a hefty ‘volunteering fee’ to organise your placement for you. However, at Indigo, we do all that organising free of charge, meaning you don’t pay any fees to go help a project. We’re not here to make money, we’re here to make a difference.

4. “I don’t have any skills.”

People often think they need some sort of hard skill or formal qualification to be useful. They think they need to be a teacher to be able to teach English; a doctor to be able to clean wounds; or a builder to be able to help build a school. It’s simply not the case at all. In communities that truly need help, everybody is useful – regardless of whether you have a piece of paper that says ‘Bachelor of Education’. As far as we are concerned, as long as you are an extra set of hands with a kind heart and willing attitude, you are invaluable.

5. “It’s too daunting.”

We actually can’t dispute this one entirely, because sometimes volunteering IS daunting. Going to a new or exotic location and working with new people can feel a bit scary. But you know what? It’s completely normal to feel like that, just like when you start a new job or your first day at a new school. In fact, it would be weird if you didn’t feel a bit jittery about those kind of things. But then once you are there, you wonder why you were ever scared in the first place.

Want to become an Indigo volunteer? Apply now.

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