The Complete Guide to Volunteering in Asia
(we call it Experteering)
Anybody can visit Asia. But if you really want to experience its vast culture, awe-inspiring natural beauty off the beaten path, and interesting people, you’ll have to do more than just visit the popular tourist destinations.
But, before jumping at the first volunteering project you see, here are some tips to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime.
Finding the Right Volunteer Project in Asia
Asia has many promising emerging markets, and recent reports show that it is poised to bring over 100 million people out of poverty. This will largely driven by local entrepreneurs creating new solutions for its people.
For that opportunity to be realized, volunteer should focus not on doing, but on transferring skills to locally-led organizations and their people. So when you search for a project in Asia, beyond ensuring that it is safe, and legitimate, make sure it can create a long-term impact, too. To ensure that a volunteering opportunity is legitimate, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this opportunity use my real skills?
- Is this something that a local could be doing? Is it possible that I’m taking a local job?
- Will the tasks I will be completing leave a lasting impact on the organization and the surrounding community?
- Are the goals and objectives I am being asked to complete locally driven?
- Is the host organization reputable?
There are many organizations that make sure the volunteering opportunities they post are through organizations that operate in an ethical and sustainable manner. Some include: VSO International (Voluntary Service Overseas), MovingWorlds, Cuso International, and Peace Corps.
Examples of Volunteering Projects in Asia
Asia’s influence on music, dance, drink and more is already felt around the world, but it still has a lot to do before reaching its full potential. With that in mind, there are lots of opportunities for skilled volunteers to make an impact. You can help coffee organizations improve their supply chain, empower women entrepreneurs with marketing support, help startups improve technology, and help local manufacturers expand to new markets.
Best Practices While Volunteering in Asia
When you get to your destination, there is a right (and wrong) way to volunteer in a way that truly makes an impact. First, you should outline clearly defined goals that are created in partnership with your hosting organization. Beyond that, following these rules will help create positive outcomes for all parties:
- Support locally initiated projects, to make sure that the work will continue after you leave.
- Train local staff to take over your work so that the transition after you leave will be seamless.
- Spend more time teaching than doing.
- Do what’s best for the host organization, not what’s most interesting to you.
- Embrace cultural differences and discuss with your host the differences you might have, and how you can use those to your advantage.
- Check in with your team consistently to make sure everyone is on the same page about tasks and timelines for projects.
Take this free training for international volunteering best practices through Udemy, and review this complete guide to volunteering your skills overseas.
Cultural and Communication Tips to be an Effective Volunteer in Asia
It is important to understand the cultural differences that Asian countries have from other parts of the world so that you can work and communicate effectively with your partners while you're abroad.
As an example, people in Nepal, a popular destintation for travelers in Asia, tend to be family and relationship-focussed, collectivist, and very relaxed. According to Geert-Hofetede's cultural comparison
"The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. In collectivist societies: offense leads to shame and the loss of face, employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link), hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group and management is the management of groups."
Use Kwintessential and other country-specific travel guides to learn more about customs and social norms.
Finishing Your Project and Recapping Your Story
When you return from your trip it is essential that you keep in touch with your host organization: We like to say that success happens after you leave. When you return from your trip it is essential that you keep in touch with your host organization. This is because success should be measured by what happens after you leave. By doing what you can to ensure your work lives on after you leave, you can also ensure that the work you did made, and continues to make, a real impact.
You should also make sure to reflect on your experience during and after your overseas experience. There are several reflection strategies you can use to promote your own learning and improve happiness. You should also be sharing your stories with as many people as possible about your experience with the aim to inspire others to go volunteering abroad and do good, just like you!
Share your story with the #Experteering hashtag
Additional Tips While Volunteering in Asia
Here are some additional resources to help you plan, fund, and prepare for your trip, if you do decide to travel and volunteer in Asia:
Asia is beautiful as it is expansive. As such, you can find a project for almost any skill set at any time, and for any length of time if you look in the right place. If you find your way there, we hope you keep this guide in mind to ensure that the work you do is done in partnership with the locals, and is sustainable and impactful to all those involved - including you!
So get out there and seize your next life adventure in Asia. We promise you’ll find that immersive life-changing experience you’ve been searching for!