Making the decision to volunteer overseas for any length of time is often quite daunting. You might find yourself asking questions like – Can I actually do this? Will I fit in? How will I cope with being away from family and friends for such a long time? These are all perfectly normal questions that every potential volunteer has asked at almost every stage of his/her journey.
The truth is you are never fully able to answer these questions until you actually get there and experience it for yourself! That’s why preparation is KEY!
With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of tips based on our own volunteers experience to help you decide if volunteering overseas is for you!
• Research: Some people dive right in without really thinking about it and it’s only upon touchdown that they realise the commitment they have undertaken.
My advice – Spend some time finding out as much as you can about the area, what the community is like, what skills you can offer and what you actually want to get out of your volunteer experience. Chatting to a host organisation (like HOPE) is really important as they can give you all of the advice, support and answers you need so that you can make an informed decision on your volunteer experience.
• Go with the Flow: Culture Shock! Two words that every single volunteer uses upon returning to Ireland. Travelling to a foreign country with different customs, traditions and everyday way of life can be overwhelming. The food is different, the pace of life is different, even getting on and off a bus is different! (Indian public transport is definitely something to experience once in your life!) To cope with this it can help to adopt a ’Go with the Flow’ attitude and embrace these differences by viewing them as an opportunity to learn and experience something new. Chai tea anyone?
• Realistic: Every volunteer who travels abroad wants to achieve the same thing – To have an impact and make a difference in the world. It’s an amazing goal to have but sometimes volunteers can feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of poverty around them and end up feeling helpless and deflated. This is not the case! Every single volunteer can and will have an impact on someone’s life – It’s ultimately about setting realistic goals on what you can achieve while you’re there. Maybe your goal is to help one child improve their grades at school or teaching basic computer skills to a group of teenagers or something as simple as offering to sit with someone in their time of need. Whatever it is, know that you CAN make a difference. My favourite quote says it best.
If you decide that volunteering overseas is right for you, one thing is for sure, you will make memories that will last a lifetime, meet people that will leave an imprint on your heart and share an unforgettable experience with new friends that you will never forget.
Until next time!
To find out more about The Hope Foundation’s Overseas Volunteering Programme in Kolkata and request an info pack simply fill in our online query form here