If you fear being bored or worry what you’ll do once retired, volunteering your time could be the best thing that ever happened to you. Your life experiences or professional training could be a perfect fit to mentor, transform public education, implement clean water projects or build houses in developing nations.
If you have ever considered volunteering, ask yourself the questions below. It will facilitate your search and help you find the right match for your preferences and skills.
Where would I like to go?
Some people like to travel abroad for a volunteer adventure while others prefer staying close to their own familiar towns and neighborhoods. Both the far-flung locations and those in your own area work well, since there is great need everywhere.
You could decide to visit the ill, read to the blind, play music in hospitals or assisted living places or mentor a young Maya girl in Guatemala as she finishes High School. Whatever you have to give is in demand somewhere.
Narrow your search to staying at home, going to nearby locations or traveling abroad.
How long would I like to volunteer?
The answer to this question lies in whether you a) want an ongoing commitment to a community or b) you would rather facilitate a project to completion with a date certain.
Decide what best fits your personality and calendar.
Do I have special talents or skills?
If you speak another language, are an engineer, teacher, doctor, nurse or dentist, your skills are in great demand overseas. Even imparting simple hygiene knowledge can change a whole village and save lives.
If you are a good companion and listen well to others, visiting those in cancer wards could bring great fulfillment. If you have business acumen, you can mentor or be a volunteer counselor. Sewing skills are useful in making simple clothing for orphans that are shipped overseas.
Make a note of your abilities and be generous with yourself. You know more than you think you do.
Do I have health or physical concerns?
If you have a health condition or are concerned about your physical stamina in a foreign country, this could influence where you choose to volunteer. The positive aspect is that this may narrow your search and make it easier to choose from so many options!
Even if your health is good, you might still inquire as to what health services are available in case you cut yourself or have a reaction to a bug bite.
What about money?
Some volunteer organizations such as the Peace Corps will pay you to do the volunteer work that is needed in their location. Others will require you to cover your own expenses for lodging, extra spending cash, transport, insurance and food.
Be sure you know where you stand on this feature of volunteering. If money is not an issue, you will have a broader spectrum of alternatives where you may donate your expertise.
If the organization is a non-profit and therefore tax-exempt you might be able to claim an exemption for your volunteer time and supplies. Check with your accountant to see if this is available to you.
What about my comfort requirements?
Lodging, the difference in cultures, changes in customs and in food offerings can be exciting to some and a hindrance to others. This is where you must know your personal limitations. Also, it’s good to ask the organization with which you are dealing if lodging is included. And if it is, will it be private lodging or will you live in a community? What about running water? Electricity? Will transport be included or close by?
Ask if you will have free time to travel or relax on your own. They might require a tighter time commitment than you are willing to give.
Documents and vaccinations
Depending on where you might select to donate your time and experience, you could need certain papers, visas, passport renewal, or vaccination shots.
Will the organization provide direction in this area? Does the organization have a training and support program? Can you contact former volunteers to see how their experience went?
It’s also good to find out early on if the organization has a political or religious agenda so that you are comfortable within this structure.
Volunteering will change your life. Even if you face challenges, you will come out of this experience with far more than you put in.
For more information on Volunteering, see our Volunteer Page. http://retireearlylifestyle.
Editor’s Note: Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website http://www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.