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Pourquoi partir en volontariat ?

When choosing an international workcamp, whether it’s a short-term or long-term project in a near or far country, many factors must be taken into account: your motivation and experience, the time you have available and the state of your finances. Choosing the right project is essential for you but also for the association that will welcome you.

Volunteers who misjudge their real motivations, who idealize international volunteering, who underestimate difficulties or overestimate their own capacities for adaptation, may return disappointed or earlier. This is particularly true if they choose a destination that is too far away or a project with very different living conditions from those they usually experience. Your real interest in the project is crucial.

The SVI team is there to guide you in your choice: we know our partners and their projects, so we can advise you as well as possible. Our goal is not to send you as far and as long as possible, but to find the project that suits you best.

Why volunteer ?

The desire to leave, to discover, to get to know each other better etc. is always strongly present in the volunteer who wants to participate in an international volunteer project. It is this desire that gives the impulse to leave and to undertake the steps. The motivations depend on this desire, which is at the origin of the volunteer project abroad.

To understand the difficulties that an international volunteer may come across, it is important to make a quick analyse of the real motivations you must have to move abroad, to start a volunteer project and to get involved. There are the explicit or conscious motivations which are easily stated and which are real: professional motivation, solidarity and/or relational motivation, sharing, economic motivation in relation to the labour market, motivation in relation to the opportunity to build a network on the international stage… But these motivations can hide a more internal, more implicit motivation, or even be a possible “justification” to more unconscious processes such as :

  • narcissistic projects : narcissistic fantasy of possible individual success abroad (indeed, the proposed projects abroad often allow access to levels of responsibility and professional wealth rarely conceivable in our countries for the same age.
  • a quest for identity : the desire to (re)find oneself, as a form of testing and self-discovery, which is made possible by a “cultural adventure” and by the very experience of the expatriation process.
  • fantasies of a perfect and heavenly place where the “everything is possible” binds with the desire to make a clean break with the everyday life. The fantasy that the past can be erased (with all the problems and the bad memories) and that the future is to be built.
  • a quest for loneliness : there is a search of loneliness in the expatriate that refers to a search of identity or a desire for change in the person. It is the possibility of being different because the person is after all without a “witness”, that is without someone who could report how he was or would remind past facts or old memories.
  • a desire to become autonomous: it is not uncommon to see more complex reasons, responding to a more or less conscious desire to separate from one’s homeland, from one’s family, to become autonomous, to break away (for example from a family that is too invasive or demanding or from a sick parent who “prevents” us from living one’s own life…).These more or less conscious motivations can be hidden expectations which are unspeakable by the volunteer because he or she may not be aware of them.These questions are there to help you to make the right choice as for your project and your host country. Defining your motivations and expectations will help you to understand your volunteer experience and everything it implies : discovering yourself and the others, going against other cultures, religions, lifestyles while confronting your values and your personal enrichment etc.
  • Why do I want to leave ?
  • To be useful ? How to be useful ?
  • Being useful to them or to me ?
  • What are my strengths and skills when travelling ?
  • What am I afraid of ? what are my fears ?
  • What will I look for by travelling and providing a supportive assistance ? What is a supportive assistance ?
  • Leaving to discover myself, to go beyond my limits, to see what am I capable of ?
  • To become aware of the world around me ?
  • To spend one’s energy in a constructive way ?


International volunteering with the SVI is not :

If for you, going on a volunteer project is above all :

  • a mere touristic curiosity
  • a search for exoticism : for the sea, the sun, the mountains,…
  • observing a poor population
  • adding a line on your CV
  • the evasion of our society : “That sucks here, there’s no future !”
  • enjoying a “original” and “cheap” vacation
  • a “humanitarian mission” where you will save the poor in two weeks

Then it’s very likely that what we have to offer you will disappoint you… So assess your real motivations before making your decision !