How to Get Involved in Humanitarian Work
It’s easy to see the scale of global tragedy in recent years and feel overwhelmed to a point of paralysis. We get it, it’s a lot to take in, but our actions truly can make a difference.
People are hungry for change and they want to support the organisations that help change lives through humanitarian work in the places that need it most.
But what if you’re not in a place in your life where you can just pack up and fly overseas to help out? How can you get involved in humanitarian volunteer work from home? It’s easier than you might think. Here are three ways to get involved in a humanitarian cause from your own city.
1. Spread the word
The job of a photojournalist is to run straight into the epicentre of conflict and risk their lives to document injustices that they see happening. They don’t do this in vain; they do it because a picture is a powerful weapon for raising awareness and exposing injustices.
That’s not to say you need to pick up a camera yourself. But rather, keep yourself educated about what’s happening in the world. Given the tragic invisibility of humanitarian crises getting lost amidst more popular news stories, every share and post amongst our circles of influence is now a deeply political move.
In fact, media coverage of crises has a significant effect on the number of donations. Read up on the political climate behind the conflict, and keep your eyes peeled for information about what’s happening at our end that might threaten the citizens in the targeted area and expose unjust foreign policy.
2. Volunteer locally, act globally
Most charities in the UK prefer not to send volunteers overseas in favour of utilising local workers. There are, however, plenty of opportunities to make an impact on UK soil. Many victims of conflict arrive in the country as asylum seekers or refugees.
Don’t become discouraged if you’re unable to host a refugee. There are other ways you can support them. Voluntary roles facilitating their settlement into the UK can be as diverse as helping young children with their homework, joining a befriending group, lending your language skills as an interpreter or teaching someone English as a second language.
If you’re concerned about environmental disasters and emergency relief, have you ever heard of the Missing Maps project? It’s an initiative founded by the British Red Cross that trains online users to map out vulnerable locations. This provides geographic information for risk assessors and emergency response teams.
In 2016, these resources were invaluable in speeding up response times after Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Rescue teams used maps that volunteers filled out just a few days before.
Another way to get involved in humanitarian work from your own kitchen table is by checking out volunteer roles at UN Volunteers. They’re always on the lookout for online contributors with skills as varied as IT development, content writing, research and teaching to support people worldwide.
With hundreds of volunteering opportunities throughout the UK to apply for, you’re likely to find something that speaks to you.
3. Provide much-needed funding
It may not involve getting your hands dirty, but rolling up your sleeves to give financially is a central part of the battle. There are hundreds of great charities that are passionately devoted to their causes and clued up on how to help in the most sensitive, sustainable and results-driven way. Your donations help provide aid, food, clean water, medical treatment and vaccinations to those at risk.
It’s tempting to solely donate to what we see in the media, but let’s not forget ongoing and under-publicised needs that are just as worthy of your donations as the latest trending campaign. That’s why organisations like Care go out of their way to shine a spotlight on under-reported humanitarian crises.
So what are you waiting for? Get involved in humanitarian work today.
Getting stuck into humanitarian volunteer work is far more accessible than you might think. Picking a handful of UK and overseas causes that need attention and then helping in whatever way we can is a powerful strategy for change.
We might not see it for ourselves, but we know that our resources are helping some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Think you’re ready to start volunteering? Have a look at what International Development volunteer roles are available today.
This post was originally published in 2019. We’ve updated it to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.