Over the past three months, I have been volunteering as Raleigh International and ICS’ Communications Officer in Costa Rica and Nicaragua (if you don’t know much about Raleigh, have a read of this blog post first).
This position is integral in communicating to potential volunteers, donators and alumni the great work Raleigh are doing as well as the impact their work is having.
With this goal in mind, the Communications Officer role involves everything from managing both organisations’ blogs and conducting interviews to writing up case studies and taking photographs.
My role was primarily based in the office in Masaya, Nicaragua where there was access to reliable internet to write and publish blog posts. This time in the office was then complimented with trips across Nicaragua and Costa Rica to visit the different project sites to gather content for the blog and to do interviews for case studies.
Working as Communications Officer for Raleigh has rewarded me with an invaluable set of skills, which I now hope will help me kick-start my dream career in travel writing. If you have similar goals, I couldn’t recommend volunteering as Comms Officer for Raleigh enough.
Here’s what I learnt:
How to work independently
Raleigh only hire one Communications Officer per cycle for each country, which means there’s a lot of independent work involved. Although I did work alongside the in-country Marketing team and Raleigh’s photographer, I managed my own time and work load to ensure I completed all tasks on my brief sheet from Head Office in London.
Working independently also meant I was in charge of coming up with my own blog post ideas and choosing the people I interviewed for case studies. This trust and responsibility was empowering and forced me to realise how capable I was to do the job.
This style of work really suited me and has confirmed that this is the kind of work I’d like to do in the future.
To trust my own judgement
Alongside working independently, came trusting my own judgement.
In the past I’ve been prone to seeking reassurance for everything I do in a job to make sure it’s correct or up to standard. As the only Comms Officer, I was forced to go with my gut instinct and trust that what I was doing was correct. As far as I’m aware, my gut did me well…
How to conduct interviews
Before Raleigh, I had never conducted an official, formal interview. I have now had the pleasure of interviewing people of different ages from different countries, backgrounds and cultures. I have transcribed these interviews and turned them into (hopefully) inspiring case studies that will make people want to volunteer with Raleigh and/or donate to the work they do in the future.
In just three months, I’ve gained the confidence to conduct interviews and have also learnt how to steer questions to get interesting answers or ‘golden quotes’.
The joys of working remotely
The dream – working wherever the wind takes you.
Whether it was from a cafe in Masaya, on the edge of a volcano or in a rural community with a cute kitten and a bottle of Lea and Perrins by my side, everyday I was able to pick up my laptop and work from wherever I fancied.
This flexibility and variety was perfect for my hate of monotonous desk work and constant itchy feet.
How to proofread and edit guest posts
Throughout my time with Raleigh I wasn’t able to visit every single project. Therefore, to get a better overview online of every aspect of each project, I asked volunteers to write blog posts about what they were doing and what impact their work was having.
I then read these posts to see if they fitted in with Raleigh’s ideals and tone of voice and then proofread, edited and scheduled them to go live on the website.
How to juggle tasks
Even though I was volunteering for Raleigh as Communications Officer, my jobs weren’t just constrained to my positions’ tasks.
As a team, we helped each other out where necessary and in doing so, I ended up doing a practice trek three times during inductions, held reflection sessions with volunteers and assisted in construction work on project sites. Juggling all these different tasks was sometimes stressful as I was left with less time to do the work on my brief yet, it was a great learning curve with regards to time management.