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An international volunteers’ bill of rights and responsibilities

In addition to reading the excellent Volunteer Charter developed by Comhlamh Volunteering Options, here are three rights and three responsibilities each international volunteer should consider:

Three rights of international volunteers

  1. The right to feel valued. Wherever in the world you go, whatever your volunteer task, you have the right to feel that your time and contribution are valued.
  2. The right to negotiate your volunteer role. Find yourself in a volunteer position that just isn't working for you? You have the right to talk to your volunteer manager or supervisor to discuss ways you might be able to shift your role or take on another project or position. And if you still can't find a good fit...
  3. The right to leave. You have the right to leave. This isn't a decision that should be made hastily but, if after talking to and working with your volunteer manager or supervisor, you still feel unhappy, unappreciated, or unsatisfied with your volunteer experience, you do have the right to go volunteer somewhere else (if you're going with a volunteer-sending organization, be sure to find out what their cancellation or refund policy is before you sign up).

Three responsibilities of international volunteers

  1. The responsibility to communicate your needs. Feel like your work isn't meaningful? Not what you thought you'd signed up for? Or just bored and ready for something else? Talk to your volunteer manager or supervisor, providing specifics about your dissatisfaction and at least a few suggestions of ways to make it better. If you don't let them know that you're not getting from the experience what you'd hoped, they can't work with you to improve the situation.
  2. The responsibility to follow through on your obligations. There's a pervasive myth about volunteers that says they are unreliable. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of flaky volunteers and no-shows who reinforce this negative perception. Help improve the reputation of volunteers worldwide by doing what you say you'll do, whether it's honoring the volunteer role and schedule you'd agreed to, providing ample notice if you're unable to perform your tasks or responsibilities, or serving as a good representative of the organization in the community.
  3. The responsibility to honor the organization's investment in you. Always remember that while you may be donating your time, you are not a free resource to the organization; rather, they too have invested invaluable time—and probably also training, tools, and other resources—in having you there as a volunteer. Should you feel you no longer want to volunteer there, be sure to keep this commitment in mind before deciding to leave.