Why work on a volunteer project?
Author: Bruce Haxton
Travelling, seeing the world and volunteering are among the most amazing experiences you can ever have. A change of place, pace and people can be wonderfully exciting, but it can also be a little daunting. Not only are you setting off intrepidly into the great beyond and coming back with a whole new set of skills, you could come back with a new perspective on the world, or even an entirely different person!
A little help
Lots of people want to go out and explore the world and make a difference. But leaving everything they’re used to behind isn’t as easy as it looks, plus arranging all of the details of the volunteering experience can tricky too. Projects are a wonderful mixture of what’s best about most volunteering programs; unique opportunities to be part of schemes that directly benefit the community, and lots of support available before you go. Projects can also give you valuable insights from in country staff and flexible time frames; a chance to really become part of a county’s culture in a way you simply couldn’t on a normal travelling trip.
If you do want to do some of your own venturing don’t assume that being supported means that you’ll have no independence! Though help and advice is available but not mandatory you can be as independent as you like. Projects have in country co-ordinators to give you a guiding hand and make sure you get the most out of your experience!
It’s a good idea to check out the credentials of the company you choose to volunteer with first. Make sure the projects they work with are set up by the community to directly benefit the community. Organisations who work with local people have usually been there for a while so are in a good position to assess if projects really do help and are worthwhile. By choosing carefully, not only will you know you’re making a positive contribution while you’re there, you’ll also know that the work will continue once you’ve left.
A bit of culture
Projects set up by the community will give you a chance to work directly with the locals who will benefit from the scheme, so you can see just how much difference your contribution makes. Being so directly involved with the local people will definitely make you feel like part of the community! You’ll also get a real understanding of the individual needs of the community; from why wildlife conservation is so important in New Zealand to why teaching is so important in India.
Choosing a project
If you’re thinking doing a volunteering project there are literally hundreds of choices out there so it can be tricky to pick the right one! No matter what you do, volunteering will prove a fulfilling experience but it’s always best to choose something you’re passionate about so you can go into it with real gusto! So all you need to do decide what inspires you; is it working with people, nature or wildlife; or all three?! Generally projects can be placed into four categories;
• Community work
• Nature conservation
• Wildlife Conservation
You’ll always have a valuable, unique and worthwhile experience; so it’s up to you whether you want to work with elephants in Kenya or do some community work in Goa. Projects will help you step into another life and culture as well as giving you the opportunity to give something back!
About the Author:
I'm totally passionate about travel, it's been my life and work for a good few years! My travel adventures haven't really been about seeing monuments etc but far more about people and getting off the beaten track. Even in a country that has large numbers of tourists you can still find hidden places if you look hard enough, living and working in country gives you such a different perception of it and more of a chance to absorb the local culture. I would like to share my many experiences and offer a little advice if I can to fellow travellers or anyone who is just about to set off on a life changing trip!