I think that everyone should volunteer at some point in his or her life in some capacity. Period. Giving back to others in need and supporting a meaningful cause is both life changing for you and for those that you are helping. More specifically, if you even have a chance to volunteer aboard, the benefits of getting to experience a culture outside of your own while forever change your perspective on yourself and the world.
The first time I volunteered outside of the United States, I went to Haiti as a 27 year old with an organization called Friends of the Children of Haiti, or FOTCOH. FOTCOH runs a medical clinic in the Sud-Est Department near the town of Jacmel. They treat over 15,000 Haitian patients a year who otherwise would have not access to health care.
After spending two weeks working with an incredible team of American volunteers and Haitian staff, I was hooked. Not only did I love this beautiful country that I had the privilege of visiting, I loved the people and everyone I had gotten to know while working there. I since have been back to Haiti a dozen times with FOTCOH and volunteered abroad with other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Nepal, Uganda, and Colombia. Basically, once I got going I was hooked.
If you are wondering if you are qualified to volunteer abroad, you are. You don’t have to have a certain skill set to volunteer abroad. Mostly, you just need to be physically capable of traveling, enthusiastic, and willing to work hard and be a team player. As a non-medical volunteer with FOTCOH, I was still able to help out in the pharmacy, sort patient records, and do other really important tasks to help the clinic run smoothly such as laundry and cooking for the team. Volunteering abroad also isn’t for a certain age group. I have been on teams with high school aged students who were with their parents and with seniors in their eighties. Everyone has something to contribute and getting to be around a diverse group of people will also enrich your life.
Volunteering abroad can be long-term, medium term, or short term. It can consist of professional positions (think Peace Corps), self-funded positions, or positions in which you raise funds to support your trip (such as through crowd funding). I have volunteered on short-term, self-funded trips in the last eight years because it allows me to keep my job at home by only being gone for a few weeks at a time and it keeps from having to ask my friends and family to support me since I already bother them enough to donate to my favorite charities throughout the year. If time is not concern, you might want to look into longer commitments. If money is an issue, then feel good about asking your peers or close relatives for a tax-deductible donation to go towards you helping others less fortunate. You will be surprised how willing to be supportive they are once they find out what you are getting involved in.
Benefits of doing volunteer work overseas in other countries
Regardless what works best for you, the benefits for you are the same for everyone. Volunteering abroad is an ideal way for you to be able to give a back to communities and environments in need other than being a tourist. You also receive experience that you otherwise could not gain in life and you learn about new countries and cultures while emerging yourself in new place. I have had the chance to float down the Amazon river on a boat to work in remote communities with indigenous populations, visit families living in the mountains above Haiti hours away from any town in areas that I couldn’t dream of existing, and hiked dirt paths to rural farms lands in Nepal – things that you do not get to through a tourism company that will open your eyes to the world.
Reasons for Volunteering Abroad
There are many different reasons to volunteer aboard: It looks great on your resume, it will give you a global perspective, it will help you make connections with other people that will last through your lifetime, and most importantly, it will allow you to help others in need.
Now that you have an idea of why you should do it, its time to get started on your search for the right organization for you.