Volunteering abroad has now become quite common among millennials and it is mostly college/ university students and gap year travelers who are traveling overseas with the goal of giving back to the community while adding some brownie points to their CV. A general study revealed that the African and South East Asian developing countries attracts the majority of volunteers.
While volunteering is an undoubtedly admirable commitment, it's worth considering some of the potential pitfalls before you choose a project and dive in. The better you understand the risks and rewards of volunteer work, the better decision you can make for yourself and for those whom you are going to serve.
Let's first take a look at the cons and save the best for the last!
You need to stick to your commitment.
Unlike any other regular holiday, a volunteering journey requires a commitment and it is expected that you'll stick to that. The time you commit is immensely valuable, as that determines how effectively you are going to create an impact. For example, if you choose a project for 3 weeks and feel like backing out after a week, you would not only disrupt the schedule that had been set for you but also disappoint the people of your host community.
There's not much time for relaxation.
If you think that a volunteering trip would provide you time to relax, then you are wrong! More or less all volunteering projects would want you to work for at least 5 - 6 hours on all weekdays. Of course, you will have time to enjoy and explore the new country, but not at the cost of your work.
Volunteering needs to be treated like any other regular job.
You can only see the change when you'll absolutely dedicate yourself while serving others. Treat your project as a regular job which pays you, and not like an unpaid commitment that you may feel like escaping! Remember that you are a part of an endeavor which aims to make a difference in the lives of those who a less privileged than you.
It can be extremely challenging.
Volunteering is not at all a fancy choice, and it can be extremely challenging at times. You'll land up in a country where everything would be new and you will not get the luxuries that you otherwise enjoy at home. The native people would mostly speak a language that'll not be known by you. You'll have to stay with other volunteers from different parts of the world and adjust with them.
The cost that you'll have to pay.
Unfortunately, a volunteering trip would cost you some money. The sum will vary depending on the organization and the program you choose as well as the duration you want to commit for. Apart from these, you'll have other costs like the airfare, Visa fees, medical insurance etc. When you are about to pay a few hundred dollars, you'll obviously ensure that your money is utilized in the most effective manner.
But if you are confident about yourself and determined to overcome the cons, then the joy of being a part of a philanthropic project can never be compared with any other tangible thing in the world.
Let's now look at a few of the many pros that encircle volunteering.
An opportunity to be a part of the change.
While 9 out of 10 people crib about the problems, only a couple of them have the guts to be a part of the solution. You should be happy that you are among those few. Of course, your contribution cannot solve the poverty crisis neither can bring illiteracy to an end - but it'll definitely ignite the ray of hope in few lives that you'll directly touch. For example, even if you teach 'A-B-C-D' to 10 children in a rural school in Ghana, you'll at least introduce the language to them. Remember that every drop counts, and no contribution goes wasted.
A scope for cultural immersion.
Volunteers get to explore the native culture in a way that no tourist can ever do! While volunteering, you'll spend most of your time with the locals, observing their regular chores, what they eat, how they live, how they celebrate their festivals, what they wear etc. This will enable you to know more about their culture and customs. The doors to a completely new world will open up to you.
Create bonds for a lifetime.
As they say, you make the best bonds while traveling. You'll meet people from different parts of the world who speak different languages, have different habits and mannerisms, and are from different walks of life - but you'll all bond over the common interests of traveling and impacting the society. You might not meet them on a regular basis once the project ends, but you'll surely cherish the bond that you've created.
Enhance your career and boost your CV/ resume.
Undoubtedly, this is a crucial outcome of any volunteering project. You'll get to polish your skills in the most outstanding manner as well as gain a lot of new skills. It'll be more of a learning journey for you. The first-hand experience of working at the grassroots will immensely boost your CV and you'll be preferred more than others by your potential employer.
You'll gain an experience of a lifetime.
It might sound too clichéd, but volunteering abroad can genuinely be one of the best things you’ll ever do. You can ask anyone who has volunteered before, get in touch with reviewers and they’ll tell you just how rewarding, fun-filled and life-changing experience it was. Once you take the trip, you always feel the longing for returning back and giving more. Being a part of a noble work is something that's immensely satisfying and you'll realize this only after volunteering.
Like every other thing, volunteering is also a double-sided coin that has both pros and cons. While from the outside it appears all good, but if one digs deeper in order to do a proper research, one can easily track those negative impacts that volunteering might cause.
Nonetheless, it’s absolutely worthy taking the trip at least once in life, just to experience the bitterness and the beauty that it has to offer. You’ll surely return back home with a bundle of memories that you’ll cherish forever!