Are you thinking about exploring the world? Do you like helping others and want to contribute in making the world a better place? Then volunteering is for you! Its a fantastic way to immerse yourself in a different culture while helping others at the same time.
You may want to embark in a new adventure to find yourself, to get out of your comfort zone; maybe the purpose of your trip is to enjoy marvellous landscapes, to explore the places that you have been missing, to learn a new language, to immerse yourself in a new culture…
Well, whatever your reasons are, if you are willing to go somewhere new and give a little help to a community in need while breaking some personal boundaries, this will be interesting for you.
Around the world there are countless associations working to improve the life of those in need, the environment, wildlife and many other scenarios that must be taken care of. These associations do so with the help of people willing to make the world a better place. And you can be one of them!
Let me share my story with you. During one of my travels around Ecuador, I found out — thanks to a friend who was living there— that there was an association called Merazonia, located near to the city of Tena in which I was staying. I saw this as an amazing opportunity to make of my trip and unforgettable experience, and decided to contact them.
Merazonia is a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The animals living in Merazonia have been rescued from illegal trafficking, and it is highly probable that they have been subject to physical and psychological abuse, or may have even been bread in captivity. Therefore, they must be rehabilitated because they are not suited to return to the wild.
In this centre, vets and volunteers take care of the animals and rehabilitate them; they feed them, heal them and help them reconnect with their wildlife once again. There is a lot of work to do in this place, and everyday is a lesson of how important it is to protect the wildlife and make all the necessary efforts to preserve the environment in which these animals live. Teamwork is the key for success, and while volunteering in Merazonia, I found myself surrounded by nature lovers from around the globe, which was also a chance to meet new people and share stories.
You can learn more about this amazing project on their website.
Merazonia is just one example of all the options you have to go abroad and volunteer. Actually, there are so many options, that you might find it difficult to choose one.
For this reason you must take some information into consideration, to make the process of selecting an association easier.
A guide to choosing your volunteering experience
The first thing you must be certain of while searching for a place to volunteer, is that you will be working with an ethical and socially responsible institution. Once you start doing your research, you will find out that there are a great number of associations that ask for very high fees for you to go volunteer in very poor countries; then, you might ask: Where does the money go? How is this association and your volunteering work making a positive impact?
If you don’t find reasonable and convincing answers to these questions, perhaps you just found one of the many associations that take more than what they give, and more than a helping entity, they become a profitable business. Stay away from those, and better look for associations whose main purpose is to make a real change in the world.
One of your options is to use a placement company to help you find the volunteering opportunity that better fits you. There are websites like Grassroots Volunteering, Pro World, Idealist and many others, that offer a variety of ethically responsible, low-cost and free, volunteering opportunities around the world.
Once you start traveling, you can organically find smaller organizations that might need your help, and which you can directly contact and get to an agreement with, for you to work with them. This type of search involves more efforts on your side, since it is you the one who must take care of all the logistics of your experience, such as food and accommodation.
It’s important that you know how your volunteering work is going to benefit that community of your choice and make sure it’s a positive impact! In some cases, for instance taking people to protected wildlife areas can be more damaging than helpful. To ensure you make the right choice, you should find out what is the current situation in that particular place. Empathy and information, are the key elements for a better understanding of the community you will be working in, and also, they are essential in order to understand the work you can do to help.
There are several books and articles on the internet that you can read to get a better understanding of the volunteering life, how and why you should help those in need, and some controversial facts about the impact of international aid. Here are a few articles that will help you to get started:
- The Greatest Good: What is the most efficient way to save a life.
- How to ethically volunteer anywhere in the world: Recommendations from an expert volunteer.
- Volunteering and Voluntourism: The Good, The Bad, and The Questions You Should Ask: Insights of a couple of travelers and their perspective of volunteering organizations around the world.
Get informed and jump onto this adventure. Volunteering and contributing around the world are life changing experiences.
Traveling itself can be an amazing learning experience, and volunteering can take that learning further; it will help you to get a better understanding of the world and the way people live in other communities. Contributing for the improvement of the world and for other’s life quality, will push your limits further and eliminate preconceived barriers.
Don’t miss the opportunity of seeing the world as a local, while helping those in need, and while contributing to make the world a better a place. Get prepared and be ready for a life changing experience.