Volunteering abroad for a worthy cause is an amazing thing to do. You get to see new places and have a lot of the benefits of that traditional traveling brings, whilst also helping people in need. You can choose to make a difference to a cause that matters to you.
It could be anything from conservation work in the rainforest, to helping to educate deprived children. It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is you are giving your time and energy to improve something you care about. There are many companies that can help you to find volunteer programs, for example uVolunteer, Idealist and Volunteer Match.
There’s no doubt that volunteering is an incredibly selfless act in many ways, and that it should be commended as such. But you know what? It’s not all one-sided like you might imagine. There are countless ways which you as an individual benefit from volunteering as well, and they make it more than worth the time and money you put in, provided that you choose a good value program.
The costs associated with good volunteer programs are mostly required to cover living expenses like food and accommodation. In many cases, it can actually work out cheaper than normal traveling, if you’re looking for ways to save money while traveling.
Here are just some of the many benefits you can expect to get from a good volunteer experience.
Meet like-minded people
With most volunteer organizations, there will be a group of volunteers working together on a project. The group may be large, or it may be small, but what you can be sure of is that everybody will be like-minded in all the important ways.
Individuals don’t give up their precious time and money just for somebody less fortunate to benefit unless they genuinely care about other people. This is the main character trait that you will find in any group of volunteers, and what helps the groups to get along so well.
Volunteer, and you can expect to make a lot of good friends. You may even go on to travel further with them, or meet again in your respective countries once you’ve returned home.
Live among the locals
This sounds obvious, but with many volunteer organizations you are kept separate from locals for much of the time. This is not an example of good practice on the part of the organization, and will prevent you from truly integrating into communities.
Any good volunteer organization will make sure you live and work among the locals. This will allow you to see how they live, bond with them, and appreciate their culture on a deeper level.
You should never go into a volunteering placement thinking solely about what you will get out of it. It’s always important to keep the cause in the forefront of your mind. Try to see it as an exchange where the total positive effect is greater than the sum of its two parts.
Volunteering is one of those amazing times in life when you can give something to somebody else and have it enact a positive change within yourself as well. Not only do you get satisfaction, knowing that you have done something good, but it gives you perspective. You gain an understanding of the appreciation that less privileged have for your help. This is something you will carry with you far beyond the few weeks you spend on placement.
When you look at the concept in this way, you realize that the money spent on a volunteer placement may well be the best money you ever spend while traveling.
Contributor: Nicoleta Radoi
Nicoleta Radoi is the resident content blogger for uvolunteer.net. Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions. She currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. Nicoleta is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.