Host selection with HelpX is perhaps one of the most varied among the volunteer programs available. HelpX is also the only volunteer site on the internet I know of that there is no supervision or oversight. What these means to you my intrepid rambler is that however things work out, good or bad, it’s completely on you and what you ask. Your entire experience while volunteering is completely dependent on the communication before you arrive to start and choosing a good host. You should always, clearly discuss what work needs to be done and the host’s expectations. You also want to make sure that the living conditions will meet your needs. Some of these may seem really basic but arriving and finding that there are expectations by host or volunteer that are missing can be an unpleasant start to a great experience.
Finding the right host can be the most time consuming part of arranging for volunteer work even in HelpX. The rating system on HelpX is completely based on feedback from previous volunteers and this can make selecting a host more difficult. As there is no mediation by third party, should there have been a problem between a host and volunteer now you need to concern yourself with was the problem really with the host or with the volunteer. Has this particular volunteer had bad reviews from other hosts and is a chronic problem?
A host will outline the types of work available at a site but usually there are a lot of details missing. These details are where your skills may not match up to their expectations and this is where communication is essential. For a host to say they have work available in a poly-tunnel doesn’t really tell you what they expect you to do in the poly-tunnel. At the extreme they may be expecting you to manage the poly-tunnel and you have only had some experience with basic gardening. This should be a topic after you arrive to start their work. Always, respectfully, ask as much detail as you can regarding the work they wish done. Remember, these are individuals or families who are willing to bring you into their lives for a time. Courtesy from the start is absolutely necessary.
Living conditions can vary from host to host and you want to be sure that whatever they are offering is sufficient for your stay. Always make sure to check with them if you have special dietary needs or other requirements. You should also ask about the actual living arrangement, if they are offering single beds this does not mean it is the only bed in the room. Sanitation is another point to clarify, because a host is offering campers as a place to stay does not mean those campers are connected to a septic or even have functional tanks you can empty and the only septic connects are available at a different location. What electronic conveniences may also be a point of question, while they may offer internet you might need more speed than they provide. Especially when this connection is shared among several users all on the same hours.
Choosing the right host and asking the right questions from the start are keys to having a good experience volunteering but especially true when using HelpX for your volunteer work assignments. Finding a host with positive references, making sure you understand what they need and what they offer will nearly guarantee that both parties are satisfied with the help exchange.
I personally found volunteer work rewarding and a great way to immerse yourself in a foreign culture while filling a need for travel. If you have had similar experiences using HelpX, it would be great to hear about them. subscribe at the bottom of the homepage if you would like to read additional articles as they are published.