You might be wondering – why should I go to India, Cambodia or Nepal as a volunteer rather than travel around on a traditional holiday? Volunteering provides a completely different approach to travelling abroad, which we think allows you to really connect with the community and culture in the way a traditional tourist can't.
An international volunteering experience is so diverse compared to a regular tourist experience in a foreign country. You get to travel to places that you probably wouldn’t have otherwise, gain different and diverse skills and, one of the most important aspects, help further other people’s lives.
Volunteering usually appeals to a certain group of people - altruistic individuals who want to really make an impact. This is what mainly underscores the difference between a truly leisurely holiday and a volunteering abroad trip. It is the simple fact that your trip is intended to benefit others because of your donations and physical acts. Volunteering abroad is a really rewarding experience for many. It is an adventure for many which makes them feel fulfilled and content because they have given their time to help others in need.
Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense Foundation work together to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Part of helping local communities involves working to achieve small tasks which contribute to these greater goals, which is exactly what our volunteers do when they work with us for a few weeks. Our in-country team helps to develop long-term plans which you as a volunteer slot into and help to progress. As a volunteer, you can feel like you are contributing to a greater, worldwide goal – something you couldn't usually experience.
When you volunteer abroad, you aren’t just going to main cities. Whilst all of our challenge hubs are located close to tourist spots, we work in more regional areas to help locals. For instance, we work in Dhulikhel, Nepal and Mae Sariang, Thailand. These are close enough that you can visit top spots on the weekend, but far enough that you gain a completely different experience than just visiting Kathmandu or Chiang Mai.
Working regionally, you are able to become more immersed into traditional culture and learn so much more in depth about the local culture. This is because you will be working alongside locals and in their community. You get to know the country in-depth, rather than just on face value from a luxurious hotel in a city. Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to get insight into the daily lives of a Peruvian or Nepalese person, with the ability to ask questions and to learn.
In Thailand on our Hill Tribes Challenge, you get to spend an immersive week living in a hill tribe just as the locals do. You get to go to villagers’ homes and sleep in the local school hall. This is unique to this area, an experience which you would not normally have on a generic tourist holiday.
Volunteering abroad is not a simple task. Whilst we want to encourage everyone to go, it is physically laborious and can be mentally challenging. It is a culture shock for many and can offer a real wakeup call to your own privilege. But for many, if not all of our volunteers, this is one of the most valuable things of the trip – the personal challenge and therefore the personal growth that results.
When you volunteer at one of our challenge hubs, you will be faced with different weather conditions, low-amenity accommodation and a plethora of challenges that you are there to help solve. Sometimes, this is overwhelming for many. But after two weeks in your chosen country, volunteers find that stepping out of their comfort zone is what separates this trip from any other. Being able to travel and see the world, whilst furthering yourself and helping others – it is an experience like no other.
So what skills do you gain? To name just a few, you will develop your leadership, team-work, adaptability, innovative and kindness. In no other situation will you need to learn to think on your feet and adapt to different situations like this than when you are volunteering abroad!
Ultimately, it is the team that you work with, the local people who inspire you and the thrill of volunteering that changes this trip from any other old trip. It is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is unique for every person and every group that we send abroad.
At the end of the day, one of the best things about volunteering with Challenges Abroad is that it's not all work and no play. You get to travel during the weekends, experience the night life, extend your trip with one of our own extension trips, or arrange your own pre/post-travel. Not only can you have a ‘regular’ holiday, but also enjoy the benefits and pleasures of volunteering abroad!
Keen to challenge yourself and reap the benefits of volunteering overseas? Check out our volunteer opportunities available in 2020.