Following our panel event on 26 January we asked the speakers to give their top tip to students looking to volunteer overseas. Below is what they had to say.

Martin Punaks – Head of Global Training and Advisory Services at Lumos.

Approach international volunteering with a learning-mindset. This means approaching the task with the view that you need to learn from the people you are helping, so that you are in a better position to help them. We need to overcome limiting notions of a one-way traffic of volunteers ‘giving’ and beneficiaries ‘receiving’ help – you are there to both learn from local people and share your knowledge and skills in the process; equally they are willing to share their knowledge and skills with you, and simultaneously learn something in return. International volunteering should be a two-way process; an equal dialogue. This way everyone is empowered and everyone benefits.

Ruth Taylor – Student Manager at Amnesty International UK and trustee of KickStart Ghana.

When volunteering abroad, my top tip would be to challenge yourself – don’t spend all your time with other international volunteers, really get immersed in the local community and ask lots of questions. You’ll get much more out of your experience, but more importantly this is the only way to ensure successful, sustainable projects!

Jenny King – ICS Partnerships Advisor at VSO.

My top tip would be to do your research so that you can answer the question: is the organisation a legitimate volunteering for development organisation? If you feel like you’re being sold an experience, without any assessment of your skills or suitability for a placement, then that organisation will most likely be prioritising profit over positive impact for the community you are working in.  Evidence shows that, while your intentions might be good, voluntourism can do more harm than good for communities. If you are looking to volunteer overseas, International Citizen Service (ICS), could be a great option for you. ICS is an overseas volunteering programme for 18 – 25 year olds (with Team Leader placements for 23 – 35 year olds) that is funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and led by VSO.

This event was run as part of the LSE Careers International Development Events Programme. For a full list of events and details, visit the IDEP website.