Volunteering abroad is an immersive experience. You're living in a new culture, possibly with a local family, absorbing everything thrown in your way. Your senses are more tuned-in than ever, and suddenly you feel like an insider.
Being an insider is cool but scary. You're learning new information, privy to secrets those at home will never know. You want to share your stories. PAUSE. Seriously, pause for a moment.
Before you start posting on Facebook or to your own blog, take a moment to consider the repercussions (you know that thing about cause and effect) and the ethical connotations of posting a heart-touching, tear-jerking anecdote. While you pause and reflect, follow these three important basic rules.
1. Don't post detailed stories about children. Detailed postings about a trauma a child had is a no-go zone. There is a reason the media blanks out names of kids, even the ones in high profile cases. Never ever be the one to throw a child into the wolves of the media. Also, make sure you get permission to take photos from the organization during your volunteering time, as well as permission to use any photos on social media or the internet.
2. Don't tell secrets. So you already know you shouldn't post stories about children. This same rule, unless you have permission, applies to adults. Volunteers and locals often develop deep friendship. As you share your life stories with one another, a sacred bond of friendship and trust develops. Your learn your new friend has a crazy past, filled with stories of escaping war, famine, or Jungle Book type of adventures. In that moment they let their guards down, they told you their secrets. They didn't tell the world. Your innocent idea to share their story can have a potential backlash. Someone from their community might see it. Perhaps there can even be trouble with the law. Unless you have proclaimed, and they are fully aware and understand your journalistic intentions, tread lightly. Everyone expects different levels of privacy.
3. Don't judge on what has or hasn't happened. The organizations you are volunteering for are working toward solving real issues. A problem you think has a simple solution, might be more complicated than you think. Perhaps you aren't an expert to the real-world limitations the must operate under. Respect that.