Hello friends! Today's guest post is by the lovely Astrid who will be sharing her reasons for why you should volunteer abroad. Before you read on, I'd like to take a minute to address Voluntourism. Voluntourism is the idea that people are travelling to developing countries to carry out volunteer work that ends up doing more harm than good for the host communities. I find that voluntourism often occurs because the volunteers are not necessarily 100% in the loop about the charities and causes they are supporting and there are plenty of people and companies out there who are willing to make a profit out of this kind of (willful) ignorance.
If you are planning to or would like to volunteer abroad, I implore you to really research charities and causes that help local communities to grow and flourish. Obviously my first recommendation is East African Playgrounds as my experience with them was awesome and through each step of the fundraising and volunteering process, I was told exactly where the money was going, talked through why and how this was benefiting our host communities, and had an amazing time supporting local businesses in the process.
Now that I have rambled on for ages, on to Astrid's post!
Hello readers! I am honoured to meet everyone! My name is Astrid and I am taking over Soph.Creates for this post. I am a keen traveller and love volunteering all over the world. I have done so with Original Volunteers many times, and Habitat For Humanity. There are many organisations to help you plan and prepare for your volunteer trip, but why should you choose this form of travel over a resort holiday?
1. Meet New People
Solo travel is increasingly becoming more common. Travellers choosing to jet off alone and meet people on the road. Volunteering abroad attracts people from all over the world, from different walks of life and you are often working in a group. From fellow volunteers to locals in the community, you will meet the most amazing people.
It’s not uncommon for volunteers to form deep friendships on a project and plan further trips together, knowing that they are compatible travel companions and don’t get on each other’s nerves. I met a couple of girls in Mexico who had travelled the world together. They originally met on a farm in Eastern Europe whilst WWOOFing. They said that tried to meet up back home but as Beckah lived in Dundee and Ellie was from the Cotswolds it wasn’t easy, instead they decided to meet up once a year in a foreign country, reconnecting.
2. Affordable Travel
Volunteering limits the amount of money wasted when out and about, stopping travellers from purchasing pointless items and expensive last-minute activities, which if planned in advance could’ve been much cheaper. Instead days are filled with helping others, saving money for planned activities on days off.
There are many low-cost volunteer opportunities providing an opportunity to give back and help develop a community abroad. Long stay volunteering is one of the most affordable ways to see a country as project fees and accommodation tend to lower in the price the longer you stay. I stuck around on one project so long they offered me to stay for free! I took on more responsibility, helping volunteers settle in and also helping in the kitchen.
3. Boosts Your CV
The job market is competitive with thousands of applicants applying for the same position. Volunteering abroad is a great attribute to have on your CV or college application. It helps you stand out from the crowd and shows motivation and passion. It certainly gives you something more interesting to talk about in an interview.
Volunteering abroad teaches so many new skills and desired qualities from employers, volunteers gain hands on experience in a great mix of different activities. Transferable skills like teamwork, leadership and problem solving are also enhanced when volunteering.
After returning from volunteering, I prepared a volunteer portfolio to display what I did on each programme and the difference I made. My portfolio included references from the project and photos. This really helped me stand out from other applicants and I took it to every interview. I could see my interviewer gained a much better understanding of exactly how I helped abroad and what I did, not everyone has volunteered abroad, and some people might think it is just a holiday.
Stripping away daily distractions gives volunteers time to get to really know themselves on a more personal level. Discovering strengths and weaknesses and learning more about the real you. It is easy to slip into the mentality of wanting the perfect life and working hard to live the life you think you should be living.
Visiting an undeveloped country and seeing the locals with so little and still finding reasons to smile and laugh can put the value of money and material possessions into perspective. Volunteers return home appreciating and enjoying their lives rather than trying to upgrade them.
Who says volunteering has to end when you board the plan to return home? I know many volunteers who have stayed in contact with the project they have helped by sending parcels, to continue helping from home. The people I met in Ghana were by far the poorest people I have ever met, I continue to send school supplies and general toys for the children to play with. I also include a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap and a washcloth in every parcel.
5. Cultural Awareness
Volunteering allows travellers to get close and personal with the locals, spending more time with them than you would normally if only on a resort holiday. Often there is time for volunteers spend a day or evening with a local family, discussing all different aspects of the country, its people and chances to practice the local language.
An easy way to understand the local culture on any holiday, volunteering or resort style, is to organise a private tour. You get the chance to pick the brain of a local tour guide whilst learning in depth about the country. You also get the chance to ask more questions than you might have had the chance to or were too embarrassed to as on a large organised tour.
I unexpectedly learnt a lot about the local education system on a personal tour. My tour guide was a part time teacher who explained whilst state schools might be free, there were an awful lot of supplies required for pupils which were too expensive for all of the parents to buy. This meant that they could only send a few of their children to school and some children had to begin education at a much later age, when their parents could afford to send them. This made sense why I saw 20-year olds still in school uniforms because they started later, waiting their turn to attend.
I hope you enjoyed that lovely guest post and if you'd like to share something with me (and the rest of us!) come chat to me here.
Until next time,