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How do I volunteer? Myths about the World Volunteer Web
10 July 2006, 17:15
by Marybelle Stryk

Each day we receive e-mails inquiring how and where to volunteer. The short answer is, “We don’t know.”

For a longer version of that answer, and some more clicks, we will point you to our “Take action” section, find the list of volunteer-involving organizations and our country pages where you’ll read possible volunteering opportunities, if it’s paid volunteering or you would have to pay to volunteer, duration of stay, in which part of the world, etc.

We are not very happy that we always have to give the longer route or reply. As the “global clearing house for information and resources related to volunteering”, we wish we could say, “If you have two weeks in Namibia, instead of checking out where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed, why don’t you spend the time working with orphaned children (or school children, battered women, forest rangers, etc) in (insert village) with (insert organization).” But resources – human and technical -- prevent us from doing this. I could recommend two websites that offer volunteer opportunities: the award-winning Idealist.org and Oneworld.net

So, what exactly are we? Let me attempt to break the "World Volunteer Web myths". Here goes:

  1. We do NOT recruit volunteers. Not for the United Nations Volunteers, or the Beijing 2008 Olympics or for non-profit organizations in Africa.
  2. We do NOT post volunteer opportunities. Better submit your volunteer opportunities to Idealist or OneWorld; they are better equipped in this. Although we make exceptions for global or national volunteer campaign, e.g., Beijing Olympics or “Walk for the World”.
  3. We do NOT have a membership. Five years ago, when the site was known as IYV.org or International Year of Volunteers, they had a huge community of organizations and individuals posting their own news, stories and photos. What we now offer is a newsletter subscription in four languages, interactive features such as blogs and comments.
  4. We do NOT provide funds or financial assistance to any projects or organization, even for International Volunteer Day celebrations. You may want to contact the various UNV country offices for this purpose.

So, next time the “how do I volunteer?” question crops up, think twice before sending it to us and brace yourself for a not-so-brief reply.

Questions anyone?