Is Volunteering Hard Work?

by Narelle Webber on Friday, 29 May 2015

“Although these two weeks included a lot of hard work, you feel incredibly good about what you have done and get to do a lot of amazing things. ISV is an amazing organization that have people who truly care about what they’re doing and the people who volunteer.” Alexis Kappl, Seattle University

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Long days and physical tasks equal hard work, but ISV volunteers in South Australia at Banrock Station are having an absolute blast, May 2015. (c) ISV

Expect to “work hard” on an ISV Volunteer Project! For some people, this may come as a bit of a reality check, but it really depends on your definition of “hard” and on the nature of the project you have been assigned to. For most ISV participants, their experience volunteering with ISV is unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before. Days tend to be long and involve a lot of physical activity. It can take some time for your body to adapt, and even something as simple as being outside all day can be tiring if you aren’t used to it (and it’s likely you have just spent the semester studying in front of a computer for hours on end).

Chances are, you'll do somethings you've never done before on an ISV project. You could call this hard work, but others might call it a fun challenge! (c) ISV

Chances are you’ll do somethings you’ve never done before on an ISV project. You could call this hard work, but others might call it a fun challenge! (c) ISV

What sort of tasks could be considered hard work?

There are a lot! Beach patrolling, tree planting, trail construction, invasive weed removal, building playgrounds or houses, animal enclosure maintenance, leading children’s educational games or classroom sessions, etc.  Some days you are up early with the sunrise, but schedules vary from project to project. Your environment also contributes to how hard the work can feel, i.e. volunteering in hot, humid conditions, or on chilly, rainy days can make even simple low-energy tasks feel tougher than what they are.

Here are some tips to help you manage…

Most ISV alumni will tell you the work was hard, but they remember the fun they had doing it! (c) ISV

Most ISV alumni will tell you the work was hard, but they remember the fun they had doing it! (c) ISV

It’s all about your being prepared:

Know what you’re signing up for. If you’re coming to Australia or New Zealand for example, we’re upfront about the vast majority of work involving habitat restoration, such as weeding, planting, trail building, etc. These are manual, outdoor-related tasks. We don’t sit around playing with animals all day (that’s not ‘Conservation Volunteering’ in our book). Likewise, sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica may sound glamorous, but in reality you’ll be patrolling beaches for several hours in the dark, on night shifts like midnight to 4 AM. It’s exciting but it can be challenging if you aren’t used to it!  Please, read your Project Overview in advance to get your mind ready (and hopefully your body) for the tasks you’ll be involved in.

Be prepared to get your hands dirty on an ISV Volunteer Project (c) ISV

Be prepared to get your hands dirty on an ISV Volunteer Project. (c) ISV

How we make it safe:

Your ISV Project Leader will brief you on what to bring, wear and how to use tools safely etc. Make sure you let them know if you are not feeling 100% at any stage. We take lots of breaks to rest and stay hydrated, and sometimes vary our work-day. For example, you may start earlier on some days when it’s really hot and then rest for longer periods in the middle of the day.

How we make it fun:  

Games! We set goals for your work each day. You’ll work in teams, we’ll teach you amazing things about your host country, we’ll sing songs or ask riddles to pass time and generally enjoy each other’s company. Most of all, you’ll be amazed by the surroundings, the people and how much you can achieve as a team. You’ll also see why your contribution is important first-hand . Volunteering has to be fun – otherwise no one would do it more than once. We aim to inspire you to continue volunteering as a lifestyle when you return home, with ISV acting as a stepping-stone experience.

It's amazing to reflect on your accomplishments, like hundreds of trees planted! And don't forget to see the rainbow in every experience (c) ISV

It’s amazing to reflect on your accomplishments, like hundreds of trees planted! And don’t forget to see the rainbow in every experience. (c) ISV

Lastly, it’s about your attitude.

Challenge yourself, ask questions, and bring an open, positive mind.

If you aren’t willing to fully immerse yourself into the experience, then an ISV volunteer experience program probably isn’t for you. Yes, we work hard – but you get out what you put in…we can promise you that.

There’s a lot of work to be done and you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in a few short weeks!

“My volunteer experience was extremely rewarding.  I enjoyed working hard all day, I felt like I made a difference and felt a sense of accomplishment.” Kristin Allmaras, North Dakota State University

To learn more about ISV please visit our website

After the work is done, relax! (c) ISV

Need a rest? Take a break and just do the best you can! Remember, it’s all about volunteering to make a difference, AND having the time of your life in the process. (c) ISV

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