From working with children on the streets of India’s slums, to teaching English in Cambodia; surveying big cats in Costa Rica or marine conservation in Madagascar, volunteering can make a positive impact around the world. Maria Sowter, of NGO Frontier, looks at the more personal benefits for the volunteer…
1. Learn some of the language
Learning a few phrases in the language of the country you’re about to visit is going to ease your transition into this new culture. It will also give
you a base to build upon during your trip that will help you get the most from your time volunteering: you’ll be communicating better with the people you aim to help. Even learning a small amount of any new language is an accomplishment that will boost your confidence and feelings of personal development in addition to your volunteering project.
2. Get involved and be flexible!
This may sound like an obvious one but always be looking for what could be done. Whether it’s from helping out around the accommodation you’re staying in to going the extra mile on the project, you’ll be more likely to get a feeling of satisfaction from making a tangible difference. Think outside the box! You get out what you put in from a project. Just because you signed up for a medical volunteering project in a rural village, doesn’t mean that you can’t offer your service in the local school if you have the chance. Being flexible like this will ensure you help where it is needed most whilst getting the most from your project.
It would be a mistake to view a volunteering project as a holiday abroad but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself in your spare time. Volunteering is all about experiencing a new culture first hand, so use your free time to travel around the country or to socialise with the locals
4. Eat local food
Getting to know locals is key to understanding a different way of life, and if you want to try out new experiences then food is a great way to start. Eating where and what the locals eat will not only open your eyes but quite literally your mouth to exotic and foreign tastes. Food is often the lynchpin of local customs, celebrations or the day-to-day way of life – you won’t just be filling your stomach, but also making friends and strengthening bonds with communities.
5. Keep a journal
Keeping a journal is a great way to record your time as a volunteer. Reading back over it once you return home will help keep memories all the more vivid, and may help you learn more about yourself as a result of your placement. Keeping track of what you have learnt as a volunteer will also aid you when it comes to updating your CV or LinkedIn profile (which is always good for improving career prospects).
If you’d like to find out more about all of Frontier’s volunteer opportunities you can view all our projects by viewing the website – www.frontier.ac.uk.
Keep updated with project news, photos, videos, and competitions by joining the Frontier community online with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or Flickr.
About the author: Maria Sowter works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Check out the wide variety of opportunities to volunteer abroad with Frontier: whether you’re looking for placements involving teaching abroad, wildlife conservation volunteering, or simply someadventure travel, Frontier is sure to have something suitable.Visit www.frontier.ac.uk