So, you've decided that you want to do some mission work (short or long term!), but don't really know how to narrow it down. Oh, I'm with you. I have gathered a few things that you should keep in mind when discerning your mission work.
ONE ~ Skills
What skills do you have to offer? Are you in the medical field? Are you a teacher? Do you have a knack for photography? Is writing your thing?
Keep a list of those things. There are many organizations that look for the specific and, sometimes, out out-of-the-box skills/talents for different projects/events. Most of the time, those other skills will be of wonderful use in ways that you would never dream.
(I realized that I LOVE to write, thus started a blog for my family, but also for future volunteers... and my joy of teaching was helpful for the Honduran nurses I worked with.)
TWO ~ Important to You
What's important to you?
That the organization be Catholic? A strong sense of community? A specific language? A specific purpose of the organization (teaching, orphanage, medical, etc)?
Keep track of those things, as well. As a volunteer you will most likely have more than one hat, so it's good to know what you will be willing to do and not do. Are you willing to be a 10 hour flight away from family? Are having the sacraments available important? What about being alone vs serving with others?
THREE ~ Where
This is a big one: where do you want to go?
Latin/Central America? Africa? Asia? Stay in the US?
Each place has both their amazing highlights and unique challenges. When you are thrown into a different culture there will be challenges, even in the US. Do you want to learn a new language? What's one place you've always wanted to go? How far are you willing to travel? Will you be safe? It's a risk to travel, period. It's a risk to serve. Be smart about where you go. When I was in Honduras in 2012, the Washington Post dubbed my beloved Honduras as the "murder capital of the world." If that isn't a little daunting, I don't know what is. I never once felt unsafe while I was there. But, I was smart about when I traveled and where I was going. Learn about the place you are going!
FOUR ~ Practicalities
Are you willing to fundraise? Do you have money saved up? Do you need travel/health insurance?
Many, many organizations require you to pay your own way and/or fundraise for your living expenses. NPH only requires you to pay for your flight to/from the host country and get insurance if you wanted it. Some other organizations require insurance. These are things to keep in mind. Personally, at the time I went to Honduras, I had been working for 4 years and saved up money, so I didn't feel the need to ask for help. But this is a choice that you will have to make.
FIVE ~ Research
Ok... so, you have an idea of what you want to do and where you want to go... now is where the fun begins!! Start with Google. :) Seriously.
That is how I began, and then was able to narrow down what I wanted. As you begin to look at different organizations, you will find very quickly what draws you in, and what pushes you away. Add those things to your lists of skills/importance/etc. Be honest with yourself. Email the organizations that you like for more information. Reach out to those that have volunteered before (we LOVE to help and encourage others with their process!).
SIX- Don't Rush
There is no time frame for this process.
Yes, there are deadlines for applications and interviews and the like. But, don't choose an organization JUST because the deadline is approaching and you might miss out! There will be another opportunity. Another organization. Another chance to serve.
SEVEN ~ Pray!
Always. Always. Always.
Pray to see if this is right for you, but also for every new step along the way. Be in constant communication with God about this HUGE decision in your life. It will be stressful. You will question everything. You will need to have a constant while you are figuring out how, exactly, your life will be changing. And also rejoice in those moments that are exciting! When you know where you are going! And when you get there!
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of things to do, but it should help get you going. If you are thinking of mission work, please know that I am praying for you! It's such an awesome way to give of yourself to love and serve your neighbor. :)
Let me know if you have any questions!