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Jessica Miller

Ethically Sharing Your Volunteer Experience

As human beings, we are natural storytellers; it’s how we bond, connect with others, inspire, and grow. When we experience something new and exciting, we  want to share it with our friends and family! Volunteering abroad is one of those experiences that you’ll want to share with everyone you know and it can be very inspiring and impactful when shared in an empowering way. This is especially important when sharing on social media where words and pictures can be easily misconstrued. When you are talking about your time spent volunteering abroad and showing pictures to others, It’s so important to think about the message you are giving with your reflections. Something as subtle and seemingly small as the verbiage we use can mean the difference between empowering the communities and environment we are meant to be working with, or disempowering and dehumanizing them.

Our words are our greatest tool and we have complete power over our narratives when posting to social media. It’s so important that we are mindful when writing or speaking about our experiences. It’s as simple as choosing to use words such as “empower” over “help” or “with” instead of “for”; helping to contribute to the empowerment and positive growth of the communities instead of making it seem like we are saviors swooping in to save the day. It’s not about us, it’s not about our strengths, and it’s not about what we can do (although using your gifts and strengths while volunteering is so important and impactful), it’s about the communities’ strengths and how we can work together to reach sustainable goals where these volunteer projects are no longer needed!  So when you share stories and talk about the amazing time you spent volunteering abroad, keep in mind the picture you are painting! Be mindful of what you are showing visually- are these photos appropriate to share? Is it depicting an accurate reality or is it painting the community in a negative light? When posting pictures with other people, it’s also very important to ask for their consent. Social media is a vast and public space and some people simply don’t want their faces showcased to strangers from all over the world! 

Sharing an inspiring and honest narrative when returning home from a volunteer trip abroad can be incredibly powerful. It can be educational to those who know little or are misinformed about volunteering abroad. It can help to eliminate stereotypes, preconceived notions, and shed light on what ethical volunteering looks like. A powerful narrative can even inspire others to volunteer abroad! The takeaway here is to have fun sharing your stories and experiences while being mindful of the power behind your words and visuals!

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