1. Research. Find out what the people on the ground need. Plan to make a difference “over there,” not just in the lives of your short term volunteers. Many short term trip planners make the mistake of first asking for volunteers and then trying to find a project. Rather, find the project first and then find the volunteers that actually have the necessary skills to match the needs.
2. Ask the Experts. Find out who can help your short term volunteers. People who have lived in the country to which you want to go can provide excellent cross cultural information. Travel experts can set up your itineraries. Medical personnel can fill you in on necessary immunizations and health tips.
3. Cross cultural orientation. Learning a few significant cross cultural principles will save your team from making too many mistakes. For example, understand how men and women relate to one another in public, what clothes to wear, what types of food you will eat, and rules for what is considered polite behavior. Briefly study the history of the country and ethnic group of the people you will visit. Their world-view will be different than yours. Studying your own world-view is the first step to better understanding their world view.
4. Training. Many aspects of short term trips require training. Everything from how to learn a language to skills like drama or construction may be needed. Even the proper way to clear brush or trash so as not to be injured must be taught. Just make sure everyone going understands their job and how to do it.
5. Humility. Humility is such an unsophisticated and misunderstood virtue. And yet like a spoon full of honey, it can make even the most bitter things sweeter. Humility on a short term project is necessary to keep unity on the team and good relationships with the locals. Westerns can come across as arrogant, with a “we have what you need” attitude. Rather than focusing only on what you did for the people or project, get your volunteers to discuss what they learned from the local people.
Good Neighbor Insurance annually insures close to 2,000 short term teams. Check out our short-term team plans.