Volunteering in some of the poorest countries in the world can broaden your horizons, give you an insight into an unfamiliar culture and most importantly can really make a difference to the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet. Many of these countries have few resources and need a few extra pair of hands to help them out and improve the community’s quality of life.
Below are 5 of the top reasons you should consider stepping outside of your comfort zone and volunteering abroad:
1. Experience the ‘real’ country that tourists would not normally see
When volunteering abroad you are normally working in places outside of the tourist areas and in places that normal visitors would not be able to go or have ever heard of. Whilst this may seem daunting it gives you a unique insight into a country as you can explore the real heart of a nation; its people, their values and landscapes which aren’t in tourist brochures. You’ll become a part of the local community, living and working alongside local people and experiencing their every day way of life.
2. Put your life into perspective
Living in a world of iPads, TVs and Wi-Fi it is hard to imagine that people are living in poverty. Volunteering is a real eye-opener and an experience which will definitely make you appreciate the things you have at home.
3. The People
The people make all of your hard work volunteering seem worthwhile and are the reason why most people volunteer in the first place. Seeing how happy the people are despite having so little is heart warming and seeing how grateful they are for your help and how much of a difference you’ve made is even better- a highlight of any volunteering experience. Whether you’re being swarmed by children excited to meet somebody new for the first time, teaching in a school and seeing a child’s face light up when they learn something new or a volunteer building houses seeing a family move in to their new home- the people will have an impact on your life for a long time to come.
4. Going home with more than just souvenirs…
… but a warm feeling inside and the thought that you have done some good in the world!
Volunteering doesn’t just benefit the people you’ve helped, but it can also do a lot of good for you personally. Volunteering can improve your confidence, expand you skill set and make you feel pretty pleased with yourself. And then there’s the added bonus of meeting lots of people and making loads of new friends from all over the world.
When you are on the plane going home you can sit there feeling very content knowing that you have done something amazing with your trip, something that probably none of the other passengers have done.
And if you do want to take something home with you there are usually things to buy which the locals have made- genuine products and the money goes directly to the people that you have got to know during your volunteering. That surely beats tatty touristy souvenirs any day!
Last but by no means least- food, the topic of many a traveller’s conversation and always at the forefront of the mind! As a volunteer you’re sure to never go hungry. The local people are so desperate to show their appreciation for your help and to share what little they have with you, and usually the most common way they seem fit to thank you is to feed you! You’ll be treated to traditional and delicious home cooked meals which are things the locals themselves would eat and aren’t available at restaurants in the country giving you the perfect chance to experience real local culture. And be warned- if you’re volunteering at more than one project in a day then be prepared to be served a full meal at each place you visit!
As well as the points listed above there are endless advantages of volunteering and helping people less fortunate than yourself in the western world. Volunteering looks great on a CV, can set you apart from the crowd and can increase your employability. Cliché it may sound but volunteering really can change your life for the better!
Charlotte Candy works for i-to-i, a travel company specialising in volunteering.