Definitely one of the most over-used titles on any volunteer abroad blog is ‘Why Volunteer Abroad?’. Despite its simplicity, this mere three word query is something that we as volunteer abroad bloggers just can’t leave well alone.
In most cases, articles are very similar: the author will note down very valid points about how volunteering abroad will introduce you to a new culture, help you contribute to the economy, enhance your education and offer you the opportunity to contribute your time and skills to noble and worthwhile projects. For the most part, all of these reasons are truly valid, but of course you already knew that, right? After all you’re thinking of volunteering in Guatemala for 4 weeks, you’ve already pretty much worked out that you’re going to be experiencing a new culture, spending money, donating time and hopefully learning a thing or two a long the way.
After working hands on with volunteers for a number of years, I’d like to offer a new perspective to this age old question. So without further-a-do, I give you a few reasons why you should volunteer abroad.
So, you always knew that the world had issues: campaigns to alleviate poverty and protect the environment have from time to time popped up on your television set and whilst you may have been moved by the vivid imagery – everything has always just seemed like an issue which is far removed from your every day life.
If you choose to volunteer, chances are that you will come across these issues. On some programs it is certain you will either witness poverty in some shape or form or will get first hand experience in observing at-risk eco-systems or endangered species. This exposure to life outside of your ‘comfort zone’ will begin to change your perspective on a few things, you’ll experience a degree of ‘reverse culture’ shock on your return home and by the end of your program you’ll know a lot more about the challenges facing communities and individuals in your host country.
For the communities and organizations on the ground, they’ll not only be thankful of having you work on their projects, but will benefit from being able to raise awareness about socioeconomic/environmental problems as well as the methods being taken to combat them.
2. Character Building
Volunteering abroad will truly test your personal capabilities and help you learn as much about yourself as you do about your host-country. By volunteering abroad, you’ll be putting yourself in positions you’ve never been in before. In some cases you’ll be working in a climate you’re not use to, trying to communicate in another language or working without resources your accustomed to. These things are great for character building.
3. Learn about sustainable development
Other than learning about yourself and about the country your in, those who volunteer abroad will also get the opportunity to learn about topics like sustainable development and understand how projects can be nurtured with the use of volunteers. Whilst you might not think that is super exciting right now, understanding these topics will give you a greater appreciation of the importance of the work you’re doing and how the role of volunteers is important for different projects.
4. Realize how similar everyone is
Most “Why Volunteer Abroad?” blogs will often focus on the huge cultural differences that you’ll experience when you volunteer abroad. This of course is true, but whilst you may marvel in the many differences between your home and host nations, you’ll also appreciate the viewpoint that everyone around the world no matter what their color or creed are in many ways extremely similar. In almost all cases everyone enjoys friendship, companionship, good food and great laughs. Forming bonds with people you wouldn’t usually have the means to come across can be one of the most enjoyable parts of volunteering abroad.
This appreciation for other cultures can be extremely educational and over time helps break down stereotypes, prejudices and racism.
5. It might just change your life
Without sounding too corny, volunteering abroad can change your life. For some it can be a great voyage of self-discovery and might give you a fresh perspective on your plans for the future.To paraphrase the great JRR Tolkein “it’s a dangerous business, going out of your door, you step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
In closing, Volunteer Abroad is a truly rewarding institute for a whole-wide range of reasons and this is why FundMyTravel is fully committed to helping more people volunteer abroad each year.
[Photo credit: Diane Valera]