2 January 2016

Should You Volunteer Abroad?

Recently I have had quite a few people ask me all about my volunteering travels, deciding whether it is right for them, so I have decided to write this blog providing advice for anyone considering to take the plunge. I am by no means an expert in this field but having spent half of this year volunteering abroad I would like to think I have a rough idea.

If you're even remotely toying with the idea of volunteering abroad, DO IT! Not only is volunteering a good way of spending your time helping those less fortunate but the personal development you gain from it is phenomenal .

To help understand what drove me to volunteering I will explain the situation I was in. Having just graduated from university with a Politics degree, it quickly became apparent that the lack of valuable experience on my CV meant that there was little that stood out about me professionally, also I still had no idea what career I wanted to venture into. I contemplated doing a Master but I felt too burnt out from education and I wanted to travel and experience the world, something I hadn't done by myself, after being stuck in education for my whole life. It became clear that I was in the perfect position to do something like this. There was nothing to tie me down to home and looking back it looks like I won't get that opportunity again.

Don't get me wrong, as with anything volunteering abroad certainly has it's ups and downs. Regardless of which organisation you travel with it is always loneliest at the start. In your jet-lagged daze you wake up to the sudden realisation that you are hundreds of miles away from home and you know absolutely no-one. This is normally the stage where most people panic and begin regret their decision but it is important to keep calm and take it all day by day. This was what happened to me both when I went to Zambia with VSO ICS and when I went to India with GVI but it doesn't take long till you quickly make new lifelong friends and you soon start having the time of your life.

Team VI212 Zambia
My journey's began with me being thrown straight into the deep end, with my volunteering in Zambia with VSO ICS. Having to live as part of a local family with a national counterpart and working on pre-existing community development projects was very challenging but extremely rewarding. My three months in Zambia helped build my confidence and prepared me for future situations that I was only able to realise once I began travelling with GVI round Asia.

Once I came home from Zambia it wasn't long till I booked my next adventure as I felt like I had only just begun to scratch the surface of what the world has to offer. Compared to VSO ICS volunteering with GVI was very different, the main thing being freedom! I spent three months working on Education and Healthcare projects in India, Thailand and Laos and I was able to mould the experience into anything I wanted. This allowed me to put everything I had learnt from Zambia into action and carry on gaining incredible experience.

Now I am left packing for my flight back to Laos tomorrow, excited to take up a staff position with GVI  and being part of the team providing such opportunities to others, whilst improving the local community.

If I could do it differently I would have liked to have done VSO ICS after I had had some experience travelling and volunteering so that I could have made the most out of my time there, rather than feeling like a rabbit caught in the headlights but I do not regret anything. If someone told me a year ago that I would enjoy overseas volunteering so much that I am about to travel to Laos for a yearlong staff position I would not have believed them at all.

Referring back to an early point, if you're even remotely considering the idea of volunteering abroad, just do it. It may seem scary but as long as you take it day by day you will have the time of your life!

On that note I need to finish packing for my flight to Laos tomorrow. It might be awhile till my next post but once I am settled I am aiming to update regularly.

Luke T.

P.s. Happy new year!

VSO ICS: http://www.vsointernational.org/volunteer/volunteer-abroad-with-vso-ics
GVI: http://www.gvi.co.uk/

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