How to volunteer: 11 things you need to know for the work ahead

(Photo by Think Stock)

Super typhoon Yolanda may have left a swath of destruction in its wake but it didn’t dampen the “bayanihan” spirit of Filipinos.

More than raising financial aid and dropping donations in kind, people have offered their time and effort to help in whatever way they can.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC), formerly the Philippine National Red Cross, has seen at least 200 volunteers a day offer their skills and services in the aftermath of Yolanda’s onslaught last week.

It urges everyone, young or old, to do continue helping out. The PRC fears rescue and relief operations may take more time.
But before you sign up to volunteer for the PRC and other charitable groups, here are 11 things you need to keep in mind to make sure you are ready for the work ahead.

1. Choose the organization you want to support. Make sure you know the group’s advocacy and believe in its vision and principles. This will help you get the most out of the experience and encourage you to continue volunteering in the future.

2. Once you make your decision, register on time. Registration serves to document your participation and ensure you are accounted for in case untoward incidents arise.

3. Ascertain the kind of service you are willing to give. Tasks that will be handed out will depend on the orientation and the needs of the group in a particular situation.

4. If you want to help out in rescue operations or medical response, make sure you have the skill and training. You must show your credentials and meet the organization’s training standards in order to be assigned to critical areas of operation. If you’re a diver, you can show your license and be tasked to join field search and rescue operations.

5. If you don’t have the technical skill to help out in the field, be willing to take on positions that you wouldn’t normally do. Depending on the need of the situation, tasks may range from repacking relief goods to taking calls for donations to doing paperwork. You may be asked to design a tarpaulin or recruit more volunteers. Whatever comes your way, you must be ready to take it on.

6. Before agreeing to be deployed to a calamity area, take the necessary precautions. Out-of-town deployments require you to bring the basic things you’ll need on your mission. Bring your own clothes, water, food, masks, gloves, comfortable shoes or rain boots.

7. Insurance is important. You may be exposed to a lot of danger during deployments. You should be prepared in case something happens to you. Aid groups may or may not pay for your medical treatments so make sure you are covered by your personal insurance.

8. Always coordinate with the team leader. Don’t hamper operations by going rogue. Be a team player.

9. Don’t expect to be fed. Volunteers are expected to be independent and not be a burden to the organization. So if you’re going to be assigned manual or clerical jobs in a designated area, bring your own food and water.

10. You will not get paid. Volunteerism is all about offering your time and effort to those in need. It’s a non-remunerated commitment.

11. There is a psychic reward. The feeling you get after helping others is priceless. Knowing that you’ve done something more concrete than retweeting or sharing links online is all the reward you’ll ever need.

The Philippine Red Cross accepts volunteers in nearly 100 chapters nationwide. Their main headquarters is located in Port Area in Manila. Check out the chapter nearest you by visiting the PRC website at or call +632 527 0000.