The world is filled with need, and there is certainly no shortage of opportunities to help others. Each person has something valuable and unique to help benefit and contribute to others’ lives. Volunteering abroad is the perfect way to learn about other people and cultures while doing something to make a difference! Knowing a few key pointers to remember while volunteering can help you make the most of your time helping others and be the most effective volunteer possible.
Great and Effective volunteers:
Are flexible – Volunteer work can often be lacking a firm schedule and structure because of all the variables that factor into which projects need to be done. New needs constantly arise, opportunities vary based on the number of volunteers and resources available, and plans often change last minute due to unpredicted circumstances like weather, health, and local events. Good volunteers learn to adapt to their circumstances and have a positive attitude no matter what type of project they participate in. A key factor is not setting expectations too high on one specific activity or project, but knowing that no matter which work projects are done, volunteers will still be taking part in contributing to a better life for someone else.
Are willing to learn the language – Not everyone has a natural knack for learning languages, but everyone can at least try. Don’t show up and be the typical American tourist, speaking loudly in your own language in hopes that people who don’t speak English might understand. Take some time before you depart on your trip to look over a few basic phrases in your destination country’s language. Interact with the locals, ask questions, and show interest in trying to learn ways to communicate with them, despite the language barrier. A little demonstration of effort goes a long way in the eyes of many other cultures.
Are not picky eaters – You volunteer vacation is a chance for you to give back to the world, not worry about sticking to your diet. One week of eating carbs or saturated fat is not going to be detrimental to you in the long run. Food allergies are reasonable concerns, but complaining about the local cuisine that is served to you because it doesn’t fit your dietary desires does not present a positive image to your gracious hosts. You might be served food that you find disgusting or would never eat at home. Good volunteers are willing to politely taste everything, no matter how unappealing it seems, and remember that being an appreciative guest is crucial to maintaining positive relationships with those hosting you.
Know when to go and when to rest – Working hard and being diligent is an essential part of successfully accomplishing a volunteer project, but rest is important too. Wearing yourself out will only bring down your morale and foster negative attitudes. Remember to take proper time to rest and recuperate during your days volunteering so that you can continue to give it your all. For some, this may be a five minute break in the shade, a quick cat-nap, or a few moments to yourself to journal and reflect. Recharge briefly, then get right back at it, ready to give a hundred and ten percent.
Build relationships with the people they are helping – Volunteering abroad is about a lot more than just giving tangible aid to someone in need. It’s an exchange of cultures and an opportunity to not only offer your services and provide resources, but to share your perspective and way of life as well. It’s important to get to know the people you’re helping out on a personal level. Ask them questions about themselves, learn about their families, find out what they do and what they like, and show them pictures from home. People generally love learning about new places and things, and they will be excited to share and exchange their stories with you. When all is said and done, the personal interactions you have with people will leave the most lasting imprints on their lives.
Are willing to try new things – Volunteers are not afraid of adventure and new experiences. Being in a new environment without the comforts of home may understandably be challenging for some, but being willing to step outside of your comfort zone will open up a world of opportunity for you. Say yes to doing activities you may never have seen yourself doing. Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself, try something risky, and let yourself open up and grow. Your trip will be much more fulfilling (and might even leave you with lasting change) when you learn to let go of your way of life and embrace the ways of someone else – your new friends.
Effective volunteers understand that they don’t need special skills. Sure, having skills as a construction worker, English teacher, or doctor can certainly provide essential help in foreign places, but those without these specific skills must not feel useless or insignificant! Everyone has something to offer, regardless of age and ability, and can impact peoples’ lives for good. Whether 7 or 70, and whether you work as a taxi driver, administrative assistant, student, lawyer, or CEO of a major company, you have a way to contribute to others in this world, even if it’s as simple as a smile or positive attitude. Great volunteers remember that they have something unique to offer and learn to translate their unique skill set to helping those they are volunteering with. When it comes down to it, the absolute greatest asset a volunteer can contribute is a desire to help.
Remember that volunteering is ultimately not about them – While this trip may be a life-changing experience for you and a chance to fulfill your travel dreams, the ultimate reason for you going in the first place is to help others. Keep this at the forefront of your mind during your time volunteering, and you will be the most effective you can possibly be – ready to give and do whatever it takes because you genuinely care about those you are there to help. This is the single most important tip to remember while volunteering!
Erin Zivic decided this year that for their time off, she and her husband were going to take a different kind of trip. Instead of taking a luxury vacation to Alaska, Erin wanted to do something to give back. She booked a volunteer vacation to Costa Rica, started fundraising support, and found out just a few months later that she was pregnant! With their hearts set on going, and the funds already being raised, Erin and her husband took steps to make sure she and the baby would be safe during their time abroad, and set out for an incredible week in the Orosi Valley. Although not quite a “typical” vacation, Erin’s volunteer trip to Costa Rica was one of the best vacations she has ever taken. Because of her determination and enthusiasm and Erin has been named August Volunteer of the Month for Globe Aware.
Globe Aware takes its volunteers’ safety very seriously. Not only do we monitor the U.S. Department of State travel alerts, advisories and warnings and those produced by the equivalent agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom, but we also follow situations in each country closely through our staff on the field and our peer organizations and by calling the Embassies directly. It is our policy to cancel programs whenever there is an official travel advisory issued to a particular country or region. Other warnings are evaluated and assessed, and programs will be adjusted accordingly as Globe Aware deems appropriate. For future travel advice, please stay updated on Globe Aware’s Facebook page for suggestions and insight into current alerts.
Globe Aware in Cambodia - check out our new video
Cambodia video: Back in December 2012, a group of volunteers traveled with Globe Aware to participate in a volunteer project in Siam Reap, Cambodia. A film crew with Journeys for Good documented the trip and highlighted some of the projects that the group completed. Check out the most recent video to discover how the group was able to improve life for a local disabled man, and learn a little about the mysteries of a Cambodian religious ceremony.
Globe Aware has joined Pinterest! Globe Aware has recently joined the online pin board Pinterest. We are sharing beautiful photos for our volunteers past, present and future to add to their own boards. Globe Aware trips are perfect additions to your travel boards, wish list, or bucket list boards. Follow us today! See what other volunteers have experienced: the change they have made in communities as well as the breathtaking beauty of the destination.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch pan. Cut the apples into 1 inch wedges. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until blended. Mix in the baking soda, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, just until incorporated. Fold in the apples and walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly. May be served warm or at room temperature.
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