Step 1: Select a Location
You can be of help anywhere! Choose a location you have always wanted to visit. An active interest and pleasurable experience in the place you are visiting will manifest in a personal commitment. Use the beauty or adventure of your destination to inspire your work.
Step 2: Plan Your Trip
Give your project a kick-start by consuming as much information about your destination as possible. Google is always a great resource for a general understanding of local politics, economic status and social composition—but don't be afraid to dig deeper. Use search terms like: "children's home," "orphanage," "women's shelter," "clinic" or "hospital" in combination with the name of the city or country you intend to visit. Keeping abreast of current events can also provide some insight when planning a project. For example, recent natural disasters near your destination will, inevitably, provide plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
Step 3: Book accommodations
It is all too simple to seal yourself away in a Westernized fortress when selecting accommodations abroad. A map can be a very useful tool when faced with the decision of where to lay your head. Use the research you have compiled on your destination to locate a hostel, hotel or guest house in a safe location near a local or indigenous community. Increasing your proximity to the people you intend to help will not only make your commute easier but will also give you a better sense of their daily struggles and overall need.
Step 4: Pack Your Bags
Although candy and other sweets will bring smiles to the faces of the children, the negative repercussions outweigh the temporary enjoyment. Handing out sweet treats to children in developing regions will encourage begging in the presence of Western tourists and compound the effects of limited hygiene. If you choose to bring small gifts for children in the locations you are visiting, opt for hygienic or educational materials—those that will benefit health and wellness or engage and inform. Throw some inexpensive reading or coloring books, crayons, pens or toothbrushes in your bag, and your guerrilla aid experience has already begun.