Volunteering abroad is one way to make a worthwhile contribution to another country while simultaneously broadening your life experiences.
Many backpackers are content to spend their time travelling well trodden tourist paths or lying on a beach. If you are looking for a more substantial experience then volunteering provides you with a purpose and gives you the chance to explore places off the beaten track, allowing you to live among the communities you are helping.
Volunteer work with Travel to Teach is designed to help on a grass roots level, it is important that you are aware of this prior to signing up to volunteer with us. If you set out to change the world then you are sure to end up disappointed instead it is better to set goals for yourself, push your personal boundaries and try to open yourself up to the challenges of working in foreign country.
When volunteering abroad you may expect to change the country you are working in however it is much more likely that the country will change you. You are sure to learn a great deal about yourself and will do things that you never imagined you were capable of. At the end of the program you will most likely notice a change in yourself, in the way you perceive things and the way you encounter situations. The change that volunteering abroad has on you is likely to be far greater than the change you have on the country you are volunteering in however, what you will have done is lent a helping hand to projects that would never normally get foreign assistance as well as developing a greater understanding of another culture.
Some of the bonuses you will get when volunteering with Travel to Teach are:
Unlike paid employment, volunteering with Travel to Teach provides a more flexible schedule and you can vary your level of commitment. You may choose to participate in a work camp in Thailand for two weeks, volunteer with street kids in Mexico for two months, or teach in a school in Cambodia for six months.
Many employers understand the value of an employee who has devoted time to volunteering. If you have volunteer experience on your resume it shows that you are flexible, patient and committed. If you can tailor your volunteer placement to the area of your personal expertise then you will also get hands on experience.
Many travelers know where they want to go, but don't know what to do once they get there. Volunteering abroad gives your travels a purpose and an itinerary.
There are few travel experiences that are cheaper than volunteering abroad. At Travel to Teach our fees cover your room/board, orientation, and the program itself. Some volunteers choose to get help with covering their expenses through fundraising. Fundraising is a simple way to pay for a volunteer excursion abroad and we will provide you with a pack to help you do this upon applying for a program placement.
Volunteering is not for everybody. It requires a great deal of patience, flexibility and sensitivity to other cultures. Those who are self motivated, enthusiastic and have a genuine interest in the host people and their culture will get the most out of time spent volunteering. Travel to Teach volunteers never go to teach the people western ways, nor are they there to try and save the people. Volunteers go to share their time and energy with local people, to experience new cultures first hand and to grow themselves. Before you sign up you should consider the following:
All of our international volunteer placements are hosted in developing countries so you may need to do some research before you go. Some projects do not have hot water and the plumbing may be different to what you are used to however all of this information will be made available to you during the application process. If you know yourself and you know that you wouldn't last an hour in a house that has only a Thai style bathroom then make sure the project you are applying to has the facilities you require.
There will be aspects of the local culture that leave you bewildered. That can defy everything that seems logical to you and may challenge your senses of right and wrong. If this occurs then you have to remember that you are the visitor. No solitary volunteer can change centuries of tradition and culture. You must determine whether you are versatile enough to respect the local culture before you go.
It is possible that at points during your stay you will feel isolated, particularly when you first arrive at your placement location. Many of our placements house volunteers together in a dorm however it is worth remembering that these volunteers may also come from very different backgrounds to you. Some people choose to volunteer because they are dissatisfied with the state of their life at home. This is the wrong reason to volunteer abroad. If you have problems at home ie. your partner, your job, your study, don't expect those problems to disappear once you are out of the you home country. Chances are those problems will follow you and they will be more readily apparent with the additional cultural and adjustment issues.
Volunteering abroad with Travel to Teach is actually more of a learning experience. Every minute of everyday you will be a student. You may learn a new language, a new culture, a new way of life. Your two greatest allies during your volunteer placement will be flexibility and patience. Developing countries are not as obsessed with time as the West. Schedules can be ignored, appointments begin later than arranged or you may be unexpectedly asked to attend an important function an hour before it begins. When volunteering you have to accept that your itinerary might be subject to change and that these changes may make things seem disorganized at times. The only way to deal with that situation is to remain calm and try to remember that your in-country hosts will be working hard to resolve the situation.