International Volunteering Day – your chance to make a real impact on the world
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Volunteering is one of the most amazing gifts we can give to others within our communities and further afield. Volunteering internationally takes you outside your comfort zone, enables you to explore the world, meet people in communities you may never have imagined travelling to whilst changing the lives of some of the poorest people around the world.
Choose wisely though. There are a large number of volunteering opportunities, but your time is precious, as is your gift of becoming a volunteer – so think carefully and choose sustainable projects.
Choose a real and authentic experience
When volunteering internationally look for companies that collaborate with the local community - supporting them, listening to them, understanding their needs and where possible employing staff from within the local communities to use their skills and be employed on these projects. Ideally you would live alongside these communities, enabling you to have a real and authentic cultural experience.
Eco-tourism is a real thing. There are companies that paint the same classrooms over and over again, just with a new set of volunteers each time. There are some which fabricate challenges to create a project.
Search for organisations that commit that to finish every project they start, no matter what. You need to believe that even if you aren’t there to see the project completed, that this will happen.
There are companies who pride themselves in the relationships they have established over time with community leaders, employing local people to help devise and implement projects that will generate a positive life-changing impact on the day to day lives of people in these communities.
What projects to choose?
When choosing projects, look at ones which genuinely interest you, or are perhaps the type of gift you would like to give to someone else. Would you like to give the gift of education through helping to build classrooms or refurbish schools? Would you like to give the gift of clean water by digging irrigation tunnels to bring water and sanitation to villages that have no facilities? Would you like to help combat deforestation or protect wildlife by replanting native trees or helping to install elephant deterrent fences to protect both these beautiful animals and the local crops farmers are so desperate to keep?
The choice is ultimately yours, but think about how valuable this project is to the futures of those in the communities – what impact will it have on them now, and for the future?
Volunteering impacts futures
A good volunteering programme will always have the hearts of the communities they are working with at their centre. They will commit to them, work with them and ensure that they complete every project they start.
It’s important to realise that international volunteering will have a massive impact on your future too.
The communities you meet, the people you help, the smiles of children as they teach you new games, the ‘family’ you belong to whilst on your travels, the experiences you collect and amazing memories you make will change you too.
The time you give will impact the stories you can tell in an interview to give examples of where you have overcome challenges, made difficult decisions or had to face your fears. It will show your ability to work as part of a team. It helps to prove you can put into practice what you’ve learnt. Your friends, family and future employers will all look at you in a slightly different light. You too will see yourself differently, knowing the difference one person can truly make to the world, and that person is you.
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