You say you want to make a difference. You have a heart of compassion and a need to help. Your hands are restless, your backpack packed. You’ve built up the courage and found the confidence to buy a ticket - you’re on your way. You land in a developing nation – one with thousands of motor bikes filling the streets, one with mud roads and grass roofs, or one with jungles and volcanoes in the backyard. You’re on your toes, willing to jump in and save the day at any moment… but unless you’re a medic carrying your own tools… where do you start? Where will you stay? How will you help?
What can you do?
Can you write grants? Build a house with your own bare hands? Can you design classrooms or teach? Are you a trained physical therapist? Are you a social media specialist? Do you have a green thumb? Can you run Excel and other basic computer programs in your sleep and easily teach them while you’re awake? Are you a farmer? Technical assistant? Conservationist? Feminist?
Many first time volunteers go abroad and simply cuddle with cute babies. Cheap plastic toys are passed around, a photo shoot occurs of a volunteer and random child (name, age, and living situation generally unknown), and a song is sang or story told. Then the volunteers go to their barracks/home stay, eat three times as much food as the children they just photographed will eat in a week, and go to bed blissfully ignorant and happy to have ‘helped,’ or realistically unsatisfied, wishing they could do more.
I’ve been there. Lying awake in the darkness of a nation with limited electricity, staring at the ceiling of a Red Cross dormitory, unable to sleep because every time my eyes closed I saw the faces of the homeless humans we marched past on our way to our volunteer site every day. Other than sooth a few cute babies and teach a few English nursery rhymes, I was unable to pinpoint anything positive I was able to do in my placement… After a week of cold showers, I was a smelly version of the girl in this video….
We want to help you use your skills
your working experience, degree, and/or passion to make a true difference in the lives of others. VA is a great opportunity to connect directly with community based organizations that need specific skill sets. It’s also always great when donations and fees paid could go directly to the CBO’s you’re working with and the projects they’re accomplishing rather than a middle man.
Create a profile and
find an organization that needs you
Pack your backpack, open your eyes to the injustices of the world, witness true poverty, listen to heart breaking stories, make lifelong friends, and let your global perspective be forever impacted while at the same time using your gifts to forever impact the world. Do good things and be great at it.