Are you someone who aspires to travel or volunteer abroad in the new year of 2019? Today I have a guest post which will hopefully inspire you to do so! Today’s post was written by Astrid Halliday, a budding online journalist.
Astrid loves travelling and especially getting away overseas to help build and develop a community. Volunteering many times with Original Volunteers and also with Habitat For Humanity, she loves sharing her passion and encouraging other to travel in a similar way.
What I Learnt From Volunteering Abroad
Hello readers, my name in Astrid Halliday and I have taken over Molly’s blog today to write a guest post on the lessons I have learnt from volunteering abroad. I have volunteered abroad many times, my love for travel and helping overseas started on my gap year back in 2013. I have gone onto volunteer in many countries all over the world including Ghana, Cambodia, Thailand and Morocco!
I have volunteered many times in many countries and continue to choose this way of travel because I return home a more rounded person having learnt so much. Not only do I learn about myself, but I also learn about others and the world.
Here are some things that I learnt from volunteering abroad:
Learning some key basic phrases in the local language can get you far! I found that far more useful than “Hello”, “My name is” and “What’s your name” is learning the word for either “Good” or “Beautiful”. People love being praised and receiving compliments. At a restaurant praising the food and meeting a family complimenting their children, it can really open doors.
Locals appreciate foreigners going out of their way to speak the language. Especially useful for volunteers travelling to areas outside of the city where there are fewer locals who speak English. A practice phrase to know is “How much?” you can then get by with using your fingers to work out the amount.
It’s amazing how much we take for granted in the western world. Living simply, even for a short period of time can quickly open our eyes to how luxurious hot showers and flushing toilets are. Although this may be a shock to the system to begin with once you are used to this way of living, it can be fun!
Using a bucket to shower or deciding to hike up a mountain to the waterfall to shower in certainly makes everyday tasks of cleaning, more of an adventure.
I certainly found that once I had returned home I complained less about trivial issues. I was the only one in the house not to complain when the boiler broke leaving us with no hot water, it reminded me of being abroad!
Many of my fellow volunteers on projects had hidden talents that they hadn’t realised the unique value of. One volunteer sung to herself around the house and had the voice of an angel and it was suggested she taught some songs to the children and apply for X Factor. Another volunteer was playing with the children doing arts and crafts activities producing masterpieces compared to the rest of us. He never knew he could draw so well, we were all in agreement that his pieces could be put up in a gallery.
Appreciation Of Education
The school systems in third world countries are known for being bad but you don’t understand how little education many of the children have until you see it with your own eyes: half day schools, extra-large class sizes, unqualified and inexperienced teachers, lack of books, extra ordinary long school holidays, teacher absence due to unreliable public transport, teacher strikes, unaffordable exam fees and much more. The children show a much larger commitment to their education than any children in the UK due to its scarcity. It is not uncommon for children to walk two to three hours each way to attend classes.
I felt immense guilt for the amount of opportunities I passed up on at home, simply because I was feeling lazy or preferred to spend time with my friends, all opportunities that children abroad would’ve grabbed in a heartbeat.
It certainly had a positive effect on my future education career. I found myself putting in much more of an effort, never missing deadlines.
Try New Foods
Ever since I was little I was particular about what I would eat. In my eyes, a meal wasn’t complete if there was no meat and no side of bread. Whereas when I was volunteering I met a lot of vegetarians and vegans on each project. I assumed that their food would taste bland like cardboard, how wrong was I? After trying meals without meat and even without cheese, I found them surprisingly tasty!
Once I had got the hang of meat free and bread free meals. I looked for opportunities to spend time with local families and eat dinner with them. I learnt that while most families may not be strict vegetarians, meat is so expensive in less developed countries that they simply cannot afford to put it on the table every night. Therefore, mainly eat vegetarian meals.
After returning home from my volunteering I have definitely opened my palate to vegetarian and vegan dishes and saving a lot of money in the process.
Here are some handy resources for volunteering abroad:
A big thank you to Astrid for writing this post!
Thanks for reading, hope you are having a great day wherever you are in the world, let us know if you have volunteered anywhere or anywhere you would like to in the future!