International volunteering: it’s a thing many of us consider doing, but an experience only the minority undertake. If you know somebody who has traveled to a country such as Kenya, Malawi or India to volunteer abroad, you have probably already heard about how incredible and life-changing it is. It is this, perhaps a friend or loved one telling you about a trip they took, that often the triggers the idea in our heads and makes us think, could we volunteer abroad too?
Although the number of volunteers is on the rise, so too are the numbers of organizations and causes that need help. So, for those of you considering traveling to volunteer abroad, or for those of you that have never considered it until now, here is a list of five inspiring reasons to volunteer abroad that might make you want to take that final step.
1. Become Part Of A Community
A big part of volunteering abroad is getting involved with the people you are there to help. Over the course of weeks or even months, depending on how long you decide to volunteer abroad for, you’ll get to know and become part of a community. In overpopulated Western countries, building this similar aspect of community can be tricky at best, with so many different faces around day in, day out, it’s hard to get to know everybody by name, let alone on a personal level.
While volunteering abroad in countries like Malawi, however, this totally changes. The most vulnerable and struggling communities are often the smallest, and after a short time you’ll know who everybody is and everybody will know who you are. These relationships become very close knit, like being part of an extended family.
You will experience a true sense of community as a volunteer abroad.
2. Make A Real Difference
So often in life, it can hard to feel like we are making any real impact. Doing a good deed is always nice, returning a lost phone to a stranger, buying a homeless person a cup of coffee, helping an elderly person up a steep flight of steps, these acts all help somebody and make you feel good. But, what if your impact wasn’t just a temporary thing, what if it not only changed somebodies day, but changed their life?
To volunteer abroad is to change lives for the better. Whether it’s through community improvement, medical care, or education, volunteers help struggling people in such a way that could easily be the biggest and greatest deed they have ever, or will ever, perform.
One type of volunteering abroad, that is an excellent example for the point I’m trying to make, is the construction of homes for people who would normally be living in dank and squalid conditions. They don’t have to live like this and you can be part of building them a clean, sturdy, and safe home; a home they can live in for many years, even the rest of their life. That feeling you get after completing the house and seeing the unbridled joy on the faces of the family you have just helped is absolutely indescribable.
It isn’t simply helping somebody out, it is changing their lives forever, making a true and noticeable difference.
3. See the World
Volunteering abroad is a great experience that is beneficial to you and the people you help. But, after your time spent volunteering is over, you’ll find yourself in a new and incredible part of the world: a place full of wonderful culture, sights, and nature. African countries, like South Africa, are popular destinations for volunteering abroad, but also come complete with hundreds of exciting things to see and do. For example, in South Africa, you have the vibrant cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg to explore, tropical mountain ranges to hike, and some of the biggest safari parks in the world to discover.
Volunteering enables not only personal growth, but adventure as well.
4. Gain A Whole New Perspective
Life can often be just a bit too much. Daily stresses like work, family, relationships, and health can leave you overwhelmed, but one thing that volunteering in struggling communities can do is lend perspective. Volunteers often report returning home with not only a new lease on life, but a new understanding and appreciation for their own.
Distance itself not only helps you to see things clearly, but to witness the plight of those in some of the poorest nations on Earth also allows you to see first hand the struggles we, in the developed world, have never had to face.
It brings home a new found love for the lives we sometimes take for granted.
5. Find A Project That Speaks To You
Volunteering abroad can be very fulfilling no matter what project you undertake, but if the project speaks to you on a personal and emotional level, you are so much more likely to take more out of it. Maybe you’ve endured the suffering a medical condition and want to make sure others are taken care of just as you were? Or perhaps you had a difficult childhood and you want to bring a bit of happiness to children who’ve already endured too much?
You don’t have to select a volunteer program in this way, but if your heart is in it, if it means something to you before you even arrive, it can not only be a memorable and life-affirming experience, but a process of healing as well.