Volunteering vs Voluntourism: Finding The Right Non-Profit To Work With

Volunteering is an excellent way to give back to the community and make a positive impact on the world. It allows individuals to use their skills and expertise to help those in need while gaining a sense of fulfillment and personal growth. However, it is essential to distinguish between genuine volunteering and voluntourism. Voluntourism is a form of tourism that combines travel with volunteering, which often results in more harm than good. This blog will discuss five keys to identifying the right nonprofit to volunteer with.

1. The organization’s mission and values

Before volunteering with any organization, it is crucial to understand its mission and values. A genuine nonprofit organization has a clear and specific goal that aligns with your interests and skills. By understanding their mission, you can assess whether your time and effort will contribute to their goals.

2. Volunteer opportunities and requirements

The right nonprofit organization should have a well-defined set of volunteer opportunities that align with your skills and interests. It should also have clear requirements for volunteers, such as a code of conduct. By assessing the requirements, you can determine whether you are comfortable with the expectations.

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3. Impact measurement and evaluation

A genuine nonprofit organization should have a clear method for measuring and evaluating its impact. It should have specific metrics to show how your volunteer work will contribute to the organization’s mission. By understanding how your work will make a difference, you can see the tangible impact you are making.

4. Financial transparency

A genuine nonprofit organization should have financial transparency, meaning it should provide clear and concise financial statements that show how it uses its resources. It should also be willing to answer any questions about its finances. Understanding how the organization uses its resources ensures that your time and effort are being used effectively.

5. Local engagement and empowerment

A genuine nonprofit organization should have a deep understanding of the local community and empower local people to take ownership of the projects. It should work closely with the community to develop sustainable solutions to problems, rather than imposing outside solutions. By ensuring that the organization is locally engaged and empowering, you can be confident that your work is making a positive impact. MEDLIFE makes a cognitive effort to maintain relationships with our partner communities that encourage open communication. This allows our staff to have a working knowledge of their customs, needs, goals, and realities.

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In conclusion, volunteering can be an enriching and meaningful experience, but it is essential to identify the right nonprofit organization to volunteer with. We at MEDLIFE pride ourselves on prioritizing our values of sustaining healthy relationships with our partner communities, follow-up care, long-term results, and listening to what the patient needs. If these are concepts that you value and are looking to assist with, check out our website to learn more about our Service Learning Trips in Peru, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.