Saturday, July 11, 2015

The World Could Use a Hand

Why Volunteer Overseas?

Travel to new destinations, live in exotic locations and feel a tremendous sense of achievement attained only by making a difference with vital humanitarian and preservation projects. Volunteer travel is the ideal way to make a difference while still having the adventure of a lifetime.

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Here are a few of the reasons why volunteering is an excellent way to travel:

Learn about another culture, language and way of life, while making a positive contribution

Package holidays on the Costa del Sol keep a lot of people very happy, but many of us need more. For those who loathe the idea of lying on a beach for weeks on end, volunteering is the way forward. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to experience life most people only dream about or see on BBC travel programs. Volunteering programs frequently take place in exotic locations and you feel a tremendous sense of achievement as you make a difference. Enjoy an adventure with like minded people—people who want to return home from their holiday with the satisfaction that they have made a lasting impact that changes lives and helps preserve the planet. Everyone has different goals. But if your goal is a bit greater than avoiding tan lines, then volunteering might be your calling.

Grow, and remember who you are

It is not hard to get sucked into the rigors of daily life… how many pairs of shoes can we afford or where can we get the latest accessories for our iPod music player. Volunteering is a wonderful way to peel off the layers and to remember who we are, and what we are capable of, away from consumerism and the trials of our own societies. Volunteering can be very challenging. Leave your mobile phone behind and delve into the work and goals at hand. You will find that you can do things you never dreamt yourself capable of. Oftentimes the work you complete with your hands is not the most lasting effect. Getting to know the local communities has an impact that might be less visible, but it is certainly very strong. By making new friendships you will remember as well as teach and remind others that we are all people with hearts and minds, dreams and aspirations, who want to feel safe and happy. Volunteering breaks down barriers and makes the world smaller. It is a marvelous way to put the world, as well as our personal lives, in perspective.

Get international experience in a field of interest

Are you studying social work or African wildlife? Chances are there is a volunteering opportunity out there that will add a whole new dimension to whatever your field of study may be. A degree is one thing, but having hands on experience in the field cannot be replicated in a classroom.

Power pack that CV

Volunteerism is a wonderful way to make your CV a bit juicier. Employers value CVs from people who have vision and drive, and volunteering during your vacation is a lot more impressive than a ski holiday at Meribel.  Volunteering overseas shows your potential employer that you are committed, flexible and patient.

All this on a budget…

Volunteering remains one of the least expensive ways to travel overseas and gain international experience.

Although volunteering programs are generally less expensive than standard tourism, programs are not free and oftentimes not cheap. Volunteers usually cover their own flights, insurance, room and board, as well as other costs and a donation to the project itself. Volunteering placement organisations also charge a fee to cover their costs. Unless you are a medical professional or you are planning on committing more than a year to a volunteering program, chances are you will have to pay to volunteer. Volunteer placement programs work hard to provide an enriching, cultural experience for the volunteers while simultaneously making concentrated efforts in accomplishing volunteering goals. There are hundreds of different volunteering organisations, so it is necessary to do the appropriate research and use caution when choosing your program. We realize that there is a lot to choose from! But this really is a good thing, because it provides you with more choice, and it provides more opportunities for potential volunteers. Volunteering organisations are responsible for helping to recruit and build an army of volunteers, and this is absolutely necessary in order to make a sustainable impact on the planet and its lives.

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE SENDING IN YOUR CHECK…

Say goodbye to hot showers

Volunteering is very different than going on a holiday where you expect the meals to be gourmet and the beds to have fresh linens daily. Volunteering requires patience and energy, flexibility yet drive. Oftentimes conditions are basic, food is tasteless, plumbing and electricity is unheard of, and you’ll be sleeping in a sleeping bag. The focus of volunteering programs is not about the creature comforts, rather the activities that forgoing modern amenities can afford. Many programs take place in developing countries or exotic places where life is simpler, and you will surprise yourself at how little you need to truly be happy. So before sending in your check, take a nice hot bubble bath, order a pizza and sit down for some prime time television because these are just a few of the things you will go without on your program.

Volunteering is different than changing

Many of the communities where volunteering programs take place are steeped in centuries of culture and tradition. Respecting the local culture is a vital part of volunteering, so any feelings of western superiority should be left at the airport.

Why are you volunteering?

Volunteering overseas is a true test of your tenacity and ability to adjust. You will undoubtedly find it very difficult at times. Chances are you will be volunteering and working with a group of people from many different cultural backgrounds and of many different ages. Some programs take place in very isolated areas where you will most likely be working very hard for results that are not immediately evident. This can be hard work. It is important that volunteers realize and respect this before committing to a program. Volunteering is an endeavor to embrace life and help others, yet there are cases of people choosing to volunteer to escape bad marriages, depression, or other general unhappiness at home. It’s important that you are happy at home before you embark on a volunteering program or else you will most likely not find the experience an enjoyable one.

Brace yourself!

Volunteering can provide you with the experience of a lifetime. There are so many opportunities to learn about new ways of life, cultures, languages, skills and more. Go into your program with an open mind and remember to remain flexible. There are always unforeseen bumps in the road, especially in developing countries. Nothing ever goes as planned, such as missed flights, lost baggage, protests blocking road routes, stomach bugs, corrupt government officials and various other problems that will most likely arise. This is all part of the experience so just brace yourself, hold on, and enjoy the ride!

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Volunteer Travel, Volunteer Abroad, Gap Year travel, gap year volunteering

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