8 Reasons to Volunteer Abroad
Now, I know this is sort of a hot topic. There are two super common arguments against volunteering abroad, which I want to give my input on, first.
One- “You’re doing it so you can brag about it on Facebook.” I do post lots of volunteer photos on Facebook and Instagram. This is not to show off, but because volunteering brings me so much joy, and because it helps raise awareness for those kids. In doing so, many people have come to me with questions about how they can get involved, too, which makes my heart soar. I want anyone and everyone to know about it.
Two- “If you go help them, they won’t learn to help themselves.” A girl named Samantha went to Zambia to volunteer. She ended up moving there and starting a school for local kids who couldn’t afford school. She gave all the teaching positions to locals. Volunteers helped teach those locals how to write lesson plans, so they can do it themselves. That’s just one example to counter that argument.
Now that we’ve dismissed a few haters, here are 8 reasons you SHOULD take a leap of faith and volunteer overseas.
Your heart will literally explode out of your chest, in good and bad ways. Realizing how fortunate you are compared to others will break your heart. The first week will be complete culture shock, and you will feel devastated and guilty for what you have. After a while, though, you’ll realize how happy they are. They have much less than you, yet they smile brighter. Their joy will make your heart swell.
You’ll realize what’s important. The first few days, I put on mascara every morning and yearned for a better breakfast. I felt bad that they didn’t have very many clothes, and I secretly missed having cell service. Ugh, how first-world, huh? Eventually, I gave up on makeup and started to appreciate the breakfast I was given when I realized many of the kids at the school didn’t even get breakfast. I realized the kiddos didn’t care about what their clothes looked like, and I forgot about my cell phone. I let go of the material mindset, and I only felt what was most important. I brought this new mindset home with me, and still consider it almost every day.
You are making a difference. I was so worried before I went that I wouldn’t actually be helping. I was so afraid that I’d be just another white girl passing through to get Instagram photos. (Honestly, I did get a lot of photos on my trips, but most of them the kids took. They loved taking pictures.) I was so surprised by how welcomed I was by the locals. They expressed many times how grateful they were for the help, and I have never regretted it for a second. I really felt as though my work was beneficial to them.
You will feel stupid. So many times on my travels, I felt like an idiot. But you can’t learn if you already know everything.
You will meet incredible people from all over the world. Not only did I meet amazing people that lived in Zambia, I also made beautiful friendships with people from Germany, France, Norway, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Italy, and more. In the evenings, when we weren’t volunteering, we spent time learning about each other. It’s amazing how much smaller the world seems when you know people from all over it.
You will get to experience and see totally different things than if you had stayed home. On the weekends, we got to hangout with lions/cheetahs/elephants, hiked around Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world,) and we rode a safari jeep across the Savannah.
Your self confidence will grow. When you strip yourself of your homeland, your makeup, and your familiarity, all you have is your bare self. I learned to embrace who I truly am inside. Others around me pointed out the parts of my soul they liked. Walking home from school in the sunshine, I felt beautiful. I was doing beautiful things. I was around beautiful souls. I learned to see the beauty in my own soul.
You’re scared. Do it because you’re scared to do it. I’m a firm believer that you should dive into what terrifies you. Spending $2500 on a plane ticket to go to Africa all alone at 19 years old TERRIFIED me. That’s why I did it. That’s why I want everyone to do it. Do what scares you. If you have any inclination to volunteer abroad, please come talk to me!! I’d love to help you overcome your fear and just do it!!