Doing Volunteer Work While Away
Think about teaching English to special needs kids in the heart of Asia or taking village children in rural Africa through basic math. How about helping out at a marine conservancy dedicated to the protection of rare sea turtles?
You could even lend a helping hand at a children’s clinic or join a team constructing brick housing for poor homeless families. When it comes to volunteer vacations, the opportunities to offer your time, skills and energy just so you can make someone else’s life worth the while are limitless.
Despite what some may perceive, volunteering is not a vacation kill. Joy after the strenuous rigors of daily living have finally earned you the right to kick back, relax and laze about. For centuries, it has been proven that helping someone else is a powerful way to reenergize. Remember, the reason for going on vacation is less because of physical exhaustion as it is about emotional and mental exhaustion.
Volunteer vacations provide enriching experiences, build lifelong friendships and relish positive memories. A powerful sense of camaraderie, teamwork and ‘family’ often develops among members of a volunteer team. Volunteer vacations also allow you to see the people and culture of a country in a way that an ordinary tourists would never be able to. They also provide perspective – it sometimes takes seeing people living in wretched conditions to appreciate the opportunities and comforts you take for granted.
The expenses involved in volunteer work vary from case to case. The ideal volunteer vacation would probably combine volunteer work with a conventional vacation both of which are in close proximity. In other words, you volunteer in a place that is close to where you will eventually go on vacation thus cutting down on additional expenses.
However, the majority of volunteer vacations are usually far removed from one’s holiday destination. Some longer term volunteer projects provide a living stipend. The vast majority will cost you money since you will be expected to cater for all your expenses. Often, you foot these expenses through program fees paid to the coordinating organization. The fees will cover travel, recruitment, training and accommodation.
The level of ‘comfort’ is determined by the program fees. Programs fees start from as little as $50 to thousands of dollars. Lower fees will likely mean staying in very basic accommodation (e.g. tents) and self-catering. Higher fees come with several ‘perks’ such as detailed pre-trip literature, airport pickups, security when travelling or working in high risk locations, half or full board hotel accommodation, heavy engagement in Visa processing etc.
When you go on a volunteer vacation for the first time, it is not unusual to leave with lingering doubts on whether you made a difference. Because your time is limited to utmost a few weeks, it helps to set realistic goals. That said, always see your contribution in the same light as that of a member of a relay team. On volunteering, you are taking up the baton from those that went before you and then handing the baton to the person who comes after you.
Most volunteer projects are medium to long term. It may be difficult to see the full effect of your work until several weeks, months or even years later. Regardless of when you effort eventually bears tangible fruit, you can rest in the assurance that you have done something that makes someone’s life that much easier.