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Volunteer Travel - Why & How to Choose

With the dawn of Random Acts of Kindness Day, what better way to give back and offer kindness than volunteering your time and energy into the many volunteer opportunities worldwide.

A volunteer experience abroad is an extremely rewarding and enriching thing to do. Not only will you visit a part of the world you might not normally travel to, but you’re also making a big difference to areas that need help the most. Not to mention, influencing the lives of people within the community you’re visiting.

Volunteering abroad also offers a great opportunity to gain a plethora of skills that will benefit you hugely after you have returned home. So, if you want to travel responsibly and make a difference, perhaps volunteering abroad might be the adventure for you.

Volunteer travel with animals

Here are the 7 benefits of a volunteering experience:

1. Discover new experiences

Depending on your project location, you will likely be trying plenty of new things like new foods and getting involved in community activities and events, all of which will be eye-opening and enriching.

2. Mutual benefit from host and volunteer

When you sign up for a volunteer project, there is a mutual benefit from the exchange. It’s important for us as travellers to remember that our primary purpose is to help others and feeling the reward of that subsequently.

3. Meet small communities

During your project, you will inevitably make lasting friendships with the members of the community you’re visiting. More than that, you will have an insider understanding of their culture intricacies and the similarities and differences of your own country.

Children at a school in Kenya, Africa

4. Become more independent

Taking the opportunity to travel abroad and volunteer as a solo traveller will allow your personal skills to develop, grow and ultimately increase your independence.

5. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself

Being in a foreign country, trying new things, working on projects you may or may not have worked on before will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you, unlike anything you will experience at home.

6. Travel the world

When volunteering abroad, the locations are posted all over the world and what’s great about community-focused projects is that they are usually off the beaten track from touristy destinations.

7. Enhance your language skills

Depending on where you’re placed, you’ll have the opportunity to learn and speak a new language. The easiest way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the country, giving you ample opportunity to learn and perfect your skills.

Now that we understand the benefits as a volunteer, here’s how you can get involved with a volunteer experience:

First of all, the best way to choose a volunteer placement is to find a program where you can use your existing expertise and experience. It’s important to consider whether you can offer the host your own skills whether they be in IT, accounting, construction, teaching, medical etc.

African child drinking from a tap

Secondly, try to choose a program that promotes local self-sufficiency, you can easily assess this by researching if the program is offered in the same location year after year doing the same work. In this scenario, we can assume that locals haven’t gained lasting skills or contribution from the volunteers to create permanent change. It’s important for us to remember that volunteer experiences are a two-way street – not just for our own fulfilment.

Lastly, make sure you choose a program that is well connected to the locals where you will be volunteering. This ensures you yourself can better understand the needs of the recipients of the project, you’ll be able to share your skills firsthand, and you’ll get to meet the community at a more in-depth level.

So how does a typical week look like while you’re volunteering on our Eco Volunteer Program in wild and marine life conservation tour at Exploriada?

All of your meals will be included, so you will start your day with a delicious locally made breakfast at your homestay or guesthouse. After breakfast, it’s time to get ready for your first presentation.

Each day starts with a presentation of the work to come as each day you’ll work on a different project. After the presentation, we will work on the community project before lunch. After lunch, we will do a little more education or project work, depending on your skills and preferences. The afternoons allows for free time to relax. Enjoy your dinner with your new team of volunteers and local crew before bed.

While you can volunteer for simply a week, we recommend you plan your trip for as long as you can. Preferably a month-long project will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the work, build relationships and make a longer-lasting impact.

by  Lexi Connors

Lexi is your ultimate wanderlust enthusiast with an incurable case of curiosity and a deep passion for action on climate change. You can read more of her work www.avaycay.com. Find her on Facebook or Instagram @avaycay.