What Can I Do?
The idea of volunteering abroad appeals to you, but you’re thinking, ‘if only I can find the right opportunity, location and activity’.
Well Im here to tell you that there is an opportunity, an activity and a location to suit every age, every budget and pretty much all circumstances and backgrounds. You don’t need to be an expert to volunteer, though it’s true, for example that if you’re not medically qualified then you won’t be admitted to a programme providing medical care in a hospital!
Here are some examples of activities that you can get involved with:
Constructing or renovating a school, a clinic or a community building
Promoting healthcare in rural villages
Working with a women’s cooperative
Practicing sustainable agriculture
Protecting sea turtle habitats and countless other conservation projects
Joining an architectural dig
Developing a small business enterprise
Supporting human rights efforts
Helping a United Nations aid programme
…the possibilities are endless!
As for location, well the world really is your oyster. You can volunteer in almost every nation on earth, in any time zone and with a climate to suit your sensibility. Check out some of my links to volunteering organisations.
In my wanderings I’ve volunteered alongside people from all walks of life, and none, including with volunteering colleagues who are unemployed, or registered disabled. If you’re recently redundant or unemployed volunteering can offer tremendous fulfilment and a vital confidence boost, not to mention helping to put your circumstances into some perspective.
For everyone, the experience you gain from volunteering, often as part of a team helps you to enhance existing skills as well as to develop new ones. Working in a less economically developed nation is also always cheaper, sometimes all you need for living expenses is a dollar a day, with the most significant item of expenditure being your airfare.
Your’s truly has no teaching qualifications whatsoever, but for my very first overseas voluntary activity I opted to teach introductory English, to the most wonderful children, in a village school in Ghana. I found that a modicum of common sense and my own reasonable education meant that I was able, as part of a team, to make great progress with my charges.
In part it’s about confidence and pushing yourself beyond your own comfort zones. But most of all it’s about the environment you’re in, you’ve travelled overseas to help, you’re with people that have made similar journey’s (both physically and emotionally), so you end up supporting each other, feeding off each other. After all having made the commitment, there’s no point prissying about and failing to get stuck in. Once you roll your sleeves up and get involved the rewards are indefinable.
Don’t just take my word for it, according to the authors of “How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas”,
“Volunteering abroad can be one of the most educational, inspiring, and exciting things you do in your life. Despite all the challenges, most volunteers we spoke with said that, given the opportunity, they would do it again. Living and working in another culture while donating your time and energy to do a worthwhile cause has great rewards and may enrich your life long after you return home.”