You may have heard people describing volunteering abroad as “life-changing” and wondered if they weren’t exaggerating a bit. After all, why would you spend your time working long hours in some remote village if you could be sipping cocktails on the beach instead?
Everyone who volunteers has a different reason for taking the plunge but in the end, what they all find is that it really is a life-changing experience. If you’re still not convinced, here are ten great reasons to volunteer abroad:
10. It’s Good for Your Health
Volunteering has tremendous health benefits. Think about it: you’re physically active so you reap all the health benefits of a good work-out – including building muscle and losing fat – and you don’t even know you’re exercising! Your mental health gets a boost too: volunteering can help fight depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and stress.
9. You Get to See the World
Volunteering abroad means you get to see new countries. What makes it even better is that you’ll travel to areas that you would never have thought of, away from the tourist traps, and see a side of the country that most tourists don’t get to see.
8. You Gain Perspective
Volunteering helps you gain a new perspective on things. You learn what really is important and that there’s no point in sweating the small stuff. First World problems will start to look really silly. After all, it will be hard to get upset that your local store doesn’t have your favorite soda in stock if you remember that people you’ve met in real life have to walk several miles just to get safe drinking water.
7. You Make New Friends
One of the best things about volunteering is the bonds you form. Your Facebook friends list will become filled with people from all over the world and you may form lasting friendships. You may also meet people who will become very important to you: future contacts for employment, people who can offer you a place to stay on your next travel adventure, even a significant other.
6. You Become Part of a Community
Part of human nature is the need to belong and be part of a community. Volunteering provides just that. People may welcome you into their lives and their homes and you may even be “adopted” by a local family who will look out for you.
5. You Challenge Yourself
Volunteering is a great way to challenge yourself and see just how strong you really are. It takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in unfamiliar surroundings and situations where you need to adapt. You’ll be surprised at how much you can cope with and this will give you the self-confidence to tackle any future obstacles in your life head-on.
4. You Learn New Skills
When you volunteer, you inevitably learn new skills. These can be skills specifically pertaining to your future career but you will also learn valuable life skills: how to work as part of a team, how to adapt to difficult surroundings, how to rise to challenges and solve problems, and so on. You may even learn a new language.
3. It’s Great for Your Career
When prospective employers see that you have volunteered, they will know that you’re anything but an entitled, self-absorbed snowflake who will crumble at the first sign of pressure. Volunteers already know how to deal with challenges and get along with other people. They can see the bigger picture and have already shown that they are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
2. It Helps you Find Your Passion
An unexpected benefit of volunteering is that it can help you find your passion. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, really: because most volunteer projects require you to be involved in a wide variety of tasks, you’ll soon learn which ones you love and which one you hate. Maybe you’ve never really liked children but after being in regular contact with little people who trust you, accept you unconditionally and show you a new way of seeing the world, you may find that you want to dedicate your time and skills to children’s health or education. You may even realize that the way things are done at home isn’t for you and that you want to do things differently.
1. You Help Make the World a Better Place
When you read all these reasons to volunteer, you may find yourself wondering why you shouldn’t just become a contestant on a reality TV show. It’s true that you can get most of these benefits from being on a show like Survivor, but volunteering has something that reality TV can’t offer: it makes a real difference. You may think that your contribution is just a tiny drop in the ocean of challenges facing the world but remember this: by its very nature, the ocean is made up of tiny drops. Like Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Besides, in the bigger scheme of things your help may not have made a huge difference but for every person you did help, it has made all the difference.