“You have never really lived, until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
– John Bunyan (1628 – 1688)
Being a modern teenager is a difficult time, filled with personal insecurities, challenges and changes. Students are bombarded with questions about what they want to do, what they want to be, and what they plan to achieve. All of which are hard questions to answer if you have limited experience of life and the world outside your own family, school and community.
Travelling and volunteering in a foreign community offers you a unique opportunity to boost your self-awareness, discover capabilities you didn’t know you had, and give you new perspectives on your life purpose and how you fit into the bigger picture. You may return from your international volunteering experience with clearer ideas of the direction in which you wish to head in life.
Travel becomes transformative when you connect on a personal level with the local people in the place that you are visiting. Better World Adventures provides young adults with opportunities to travel to new and unfamiliar countries, experience new cultures, and face challenging situations. They are able to discover for themselves the hospitality of the foreign culture within an emotionally safe and supportive environment. Such experiences have the potential to be very developmental, but the catalyst for powerful personal growth comes when we include service learning and charitable volunteering into the mix.
This combination of adventure and giving back becomes a uniquely positive learning experience and has the potential to be life changing in numerous ways.
The Benefits of Volunteering
Too often, volunteering is promoted as a way for you to help eradicate world hunger, end global poverty, and save the world! It may surprise you to discover that this will not be the case, nor should it. In fact, a universal truth you may discover is that a lot of the world doesn’t need saving. Volunteering while travelling, commonly known as voluntourism, should always be about sharing and caring and cultural exchange, than inappropriate notions about saving the world.
The communities that you are helping are rarely sad and desperate and in dire need of help from strangers. Even in locations where a crisis has taken place, you’ll be amazed at the resilience and positivity of the people you meet. What our host communities do appreciate, is a genuine hand offered to assist or support, where an opportunity exists.
Everyone benefits when you volunteer. The community that hosts you benefits from your positivity, your abilities, and the generosity of your labour and toil. You will experience the wonder of the world, learn new skills, and connect socially with a much wider network of like-minded people than you have ever been exposed to in the past. You may forge lifelong friendships and networks out of the experience. You will quickly discover that you will gain as much as you give.
Do Something Meaningful and Rewarding
On your Better World Adventure, you will quickly discover that community volunteering is one of the most rewarding and meaningful things you can do. You get to provide welcome assistance to communities that appreciate your effort, via ways that they have chosen themselves. There is something very fulfilling about giving your own time and talent selflessly without expecting anything in return. It is a fantastic way to make new friends, experience a new culture and language, see the world and give back.
Developing Social Responsibility
In today’s commodity-based society, it is easy to grow up without a sense of gratitude for what you have and empathy for the lives of others. International community volunteering will provide you with a sense of social responsibility and inspiration for “giving back” and helping others.
It will expand your understanding of other people’s lives, exposing you to the day-to-day problems that people cope with, and the resilience and persistence that people demonstrate in their lives.
You will experience and be able to reflect on broader global issues including poverty, social justice and gender inequality.
You will discover that your efforts can have a real and positive affect on people and their communities, even when your personal contribution appears insignificant.
The knowledge that your contribution is valued, and that you can play a part in improving other people’s lives is a life lesson that might encourage you to continue to seek out volunteer opportunities long after you have returned home from your Better World Adventure.
Enhancing Mental and Physical Health
Research has shown that teens who engage in community service become more responsible with higher self-esteem and resilience. Having a strong sense of self-esteem is very important as it gives you
Demystification of Other Cultures
Throughout the world recently, there has been a dramatic rise in racism, xenophobia, and suspicion directed toward people of other cultures, ethnicity and religion. Discrimination and misguided notions of class and privilege have no place in modern society. Physically experiencing other cultures, and personally interacting with people in foreign communities will quickly show you that people the world over are a lot more similar than they are different.
Make New Friends Through Networking and Social Interaction
Volunteering will give you an opportunity to interact with other people in very unique social situations. In addition to the other members of your Better World Adventure group, you may find yourself volunteering alongside mentors and likeminded people from countries throughout the world, many of who will have similar goals and motivations to your own. Fellow volunteers will teach you new skills and you will discover how easily you are able to interact with people from such different backgrounds, countries and cultures. Best of all you will have a lot of fun doing it.
Overcoming challenges abroad will give you the confidence to overcome challenges at home. Working on community reconstruction, getting out of your comfort zone on a project, being immersed in different religions, bearing tropical heat or alpine cold and living without your familiar creature comforts can be very challenging. Once you’ve successfully completed your trip, you’ll feel ready to tackle more of what life throws at you!
Help Define Your Career Path
Your Better World Adventure will enable you to be an active participant in an international community and will expose you to very new experiences and cultural practices. As a result, you may discover a new passion and direction regarding your future. The projects that you are involved in, and the skills of the people you work with while volunteering can be very broad and diverse and expose you to a wide range of new career choices.
You might find out that you will work well in teams or that you possess leadership skills. You might be inspired to learn a new language. You may find yourself drawn to childcare, or teaching, construction, agriculture, humanitarian aid, public policy, medicine, community development, social work, business, conservation, animal husbandry, hospitality or tourism. Quite frankly, the list of careers that your volunteering has the potential to introduce you to is endless.
Strengthening Your Resume
A common problem for young adults is how to promote yourself if you only have limited employment or life experience. Some of the new activity and skills you learn or are exposed to while on your Better World Adventure may seem basic and trivial at the time, but may also provide building blocks for future success. Research has shown that many volunteers will come home more employable, equipped with a variety of improved soft and hard skills, and will often have a better idea of possible career path.
Volunteering develops skills such as leadership, communication, dependability, time management and decision making. These are great qualities that people look for in a potential student or employee or scholarship recipient, and can set you apart from other applicants as it gives an indication of your strength of character. Commitment to community volunteer work shows that you are responsible and that you are willing to work for something without monetary compensation. It shows that you are
In addition to job-specific skills, volunteering helps to develop your interpersonal “soft” skills that employers consider particularly important. Soft skills are “people” skills and personal attributes that demonstrate when you interact with other people. They include communication skills, situational awareness, empathy, positive attitude, teamwork, creative thinking, problem solving and decision making. Being able to interact well with others is important in any job. Highlighting how your international volunteering helped you develop these soft skills is a valuable addition to your CV.
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