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5 Inspiring Expert Tips on Volunteering Abroad

Insights + Opinion
Sustainability activist and Instagram influencer Margarita Samsonova speaks with EcoWatch on her experience as a volunteer worker abroad. Facebook Live

EcoWatch teamed up with sustainability activist and Instagram influencer Margarita Samsonova via Facebook Live to give you the tools you need to make a massive impact on this planet through volunteer work.

Here are five steps including valuable "pro-tips" to get you on your way to a life-changing experience as a volunteer abroad.




1. Imagine Your Capabilities

Step one is using your imagination to discover what you are capable of. Samsonova explained that she never would have thought she'd be where she is today. "I just had a passion but I couldn't even phrase it," said Samsonova as she shared how the path she once imagined didn't make logical sense at the time. She had no idea who she would one day be when she first recognized her passion to study zoology and thus make a difference on the planet.

Samsonova trusted and surrendered to her passion, eventually discovered her message, and today she has a video with 22,000 views on Facebook and 106,000 followers in Instagram. She's inspiring people around the globe to do the work. And she gets to spend at least one month each year doing volunteer abroad work.

2. Do the Research

Research everything until you find the organization of your choice. For example, you might start by searching "penguin rescue center" + "your preferred destination." Once you find a specific organization, be sure to check reviews as well.

In case you find yourself stuck on third party websites that disclose the name of specific organizations and cost large amounts of money. Samsonova shared a "pro-tip" for you.

On that website, view the description for the volunteer opportunity you've found. Copy and paste some of the words in that description to your preferred search engine including the country. For example, copy and paste words like "spend time giving medications to turtles + Costa Rica" to your search engine. There's a high chance you will then find the name of that organization and void the fees from the third party website.

3. Follow the Money

As described in the Instagram post below, it can costs money to volunteer. Samsonova offered another "pro-tip" — $20 - 30 per day is the recommended cost you should pay. If an opportunity costs more than that, it's important to get back to researching and find out where that money is going.

Another way to avoid paying money is telling the organization about any value you can add while you are there. If you are a skilled worker, you can discuss offering your services in exchange for a the volunteer opportunity.

4. Be Patient

Those who offer volunteer work are often times incredibly busy people who are working on saving orangutans from illegal logging operations, rescuing sea turtles from poachers and capturing ghost nets trapping endangered species such as the vaquita.

"Things can be really slow. They can be located in the middle of no where with limited service. They have other things to think about. The process can be quite long ... they might forget to reply," said Samsonova.

She urged viewers to avoid taking these circumstances personally and explained an experience she once had where the messages were very short and she thought they might not want her to come. "Maybe I shouldn't go," she wondered.

She realized they were just too busy to have long conversations. "If you want to come, come here, trust me we will show you everything," is the message she received.

5. Take Responsibility

Volunteering abroad will open your eyes to the destruction we cause as humans and what we can do to avoid harming to the planet.

"You never come back the same person from a trip like that because it changes your perspective, your opinion on life on how other people live in different countries," said Samsonova. "With every trip I do I come back a better person."

Samsonova wrapped up the interview by discussing the massive impact volunteering typically has on a person. She said she never comes back the same person after a trip. "How can I care about shoes and nail polish if there are penguins out there that are dying?"

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