Volunteer Travel: Bridging the Gap Between Home and Abroad
While volunteer work has been around for a number of years, it’s now becoming more common than ever for high schools to require that their students participate in volunteer projects as part of their graduation requirements. Many universities also tend to favor students who have dedicated time throughout their high school years to giving back and it’s becoming very popular for companies to see this as a big plus on résumés. And that’s awesome!
Even more awesome is getting the chance to help make a positive impact on local communities, both in the United States and overseas, and incorporating that into your everyday life. With more and more opportunities popping up around every corner for students to get involved with volunteer efforts, it’s no wonder that way more students are not only volunteering at home during the school year, but also finding ways to volunteer abroad. And guess what…there are many amazing ways to bring the two together! This not only means making a difference in more than one community, but it also means that you are able to act as a bridge between different communities and their understanding of and ability to help each other.
1. Start Sooner Rather Than Later
Your overseas service doesn’t have to wait until the summer. Once you decide on the type of volunteer program you are going to do, you can start helping long before you step foot on the plane. You’ll be surprised at how many people ask if they can help once you start sharing your plans with friends, family, classmates, and the rest of your community. Contact your program coordinator to find out what sort of items might be useful during your service work (i.e. books, gardening tools, old clothes) and ask for people to help make donations for you to bring with you for your service trip – an old suitcase is always a helpful donation to bring everything with you too!
2. Go the Extra Mile
Writing about your time is not only an amazing way to document your time spent volunteering with communities overseas, but it is also a great way to earn those last few community service hours or even go towards classroom credits! Your teachers are more than likely going to want to help you be able to volunteer abroad and can even make customized plans for you with your program coordinator – the possibilities really are endless! Plus it is a fun way to come away from your volunteer travels with something tangible to remember the details your experience.
3. Build Community Connections
One of the best known and longest running volunteer programs in the entire world is the United States Peace Corps, and they have only main three goals: to provide trained men and women to countries in need, to teach locals in those countries about American culture, and to teach the American people about other countries’ cultures upon their return to the United States. Pretty straightforward! Much like the Peace Corps, you will be providing your services to overseas communities in need while learning about their culture and teaching them about your own. So when you come back home from your time spent volunteering abroad, you can implement the third goal and share your experiences with friends and family or even host a cultural presentation in your community or at your school so that people can learn about the community that you helped and work on ways to get other people interested in participating in volunteer efforts too!
So get out there, do your best to be the change you wish to see in the world, and help others to do the same!