Touch the World
America is the most giving nation in the world. Not only generous with their money, but giving of their time and concern for others, as well. Volunteer work is on the rise in America, and the benefits are huge, both for the giver and the recipient. The world is literally full of volunteer opportunities.
No matter what skill you have, whether you are an IT specialist, a nurse, a construction worker, or a mom, you can make a difference in the world. Organizations need help design web pages to connect with other people to raise awareness and funds, health workers to give shots and handle clinic visits, skilled workers to design and construct sturdy buildings, and people to care for children. If you can teach English, help dig a well, change a diaper, or write a business plan for a micro loan, there is no end to the need.
Benefits of Volun-TOUR-ism
The health benefits of volunteer work are well documented. People who volunteer tend to live longer, lead more active lives, and deal less frequently with depression. Volunteering helps put the focus on what we do have, not what we don’t. A week in your life digging a well or training someone to run a small business, can have life changing effects on the people you’re visiting. Most people that receive the benefits of volunteer travel will never leave their country, often their city or town. You are an ambassador to the needy of the world, be it because of systemic poverty, an outbreak of disease, or a national disaster.
A new trend is to combine sightseeing with work. John Thomas, of Living Hope in South Africa, www.livinghope.co.za says, “When teams come from America, we always encourage them to sightsee here in South Africa, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Teams that come to work with us visit take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, visit Cape Point, take a boat to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned, and enjoy an afternoon at Boulders Beach, where you can see hundreds of African Penguins. There is plenty of work to do, and we can customize an itinerary based on what your team would like to do. We have needs in after school kids clubs, HIV Education, preparing and serving meals at the homeless shelter, and basic construction and gardening projects. We are always happy to have teams come, large or small.”
Combining global travel with helping others is becoming more popular. Many churches have relationships with congregations and organizations in developing nations. Teams return year after year, strengthening the relationship. Teams that go represent the entire congregations or organizations, bringing donations, funds, and good will. Check with your church to see if they have any projects or know of any in your area.
Another benefit is connection to the people, a real life experience with a locale that you normally only see for 30 seconds on the evening news. By volunteering overseas, you connect with people that will never be able to leave their own country. You’ll see the need, the people, the situation firsthand and become an ambassador of hope, both from your native country to a new nation, and then from your destination back home.