“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
ACTS 20: 35
In previous posts, we’ve encouraged families to consider taking a Family International Volunteer trip if they have the means to do so but have not discussed in detail the work of a family international volunteer trip. We’ve had the pleasure and privilege of doing six different “vacations” like this and have traveled to Peru, Costa Rica, South Africa, Guatemala, Kenya, and Indonesia.
You may be wondering – is it possible to make a significant contribution to a community when you’re only staying a week AND bringing your entire family? We hope this post will be an answer to some of those questions and an encouragement to you. We will be glad to share how we seek to make the most of our volunteer work and provide some examples of what we’ve done during our own international trips.
We are a Christian family who wants our life built around the truth of God’s Word. This means that when we plan a family international volunteer trip, this is our foundation and purpose for going above all else. Going to another country and doing the helpful work of a family international volunteer trip has given us some unique opportunities to share our faith with others.
While we’re traveling, we share the reasons behind our trip with those we come into contact with, including our fellow passengers. Even our clothing reflects our faith, as it often displays Bible verses or Christian symbols. Once we arrive, we pray together as a family, asking God to bless our work and our time there.
When we work with children, we sometimes sing hymns and connect with them through music. Often, there are unexpected challenges during our trips, and it is of the utmost importance to us to strive to have a positive attitude when this happens because we know we reflect Christ to those around us. This helps our family keep in mind why we are there and how to make the most of our time and service.
Willingness to Learn
Most of the work of a family international volunteer trip we have done has been with the assistance and coordination of local experts. They provide the resources and supplies that the team needs to do the job. Some of the more advanced tasks that we have done (with their help!) include concrete work, installing drip lines in a greenhouse, building mud stoves, and constructing houses. We weren’t well versed in any of those trades, but we were willing to learn and committed to working hard.
Expertise Not Required
The tasks involved in the work of a family international volunteer trip did not require us to have previously acquired special skills. If you cannot do the work they suggest, they should be able to find a job that makes you more comfortable. Some of the simpler and less physically demanding tasks we have done include painting, gardening, planting trees, landscaping, teaching English to children, and playing games and singing songs with them. A flexible attitude and willingness to work hard are the two most helpful perspectives to maintain during trips like these.
Your Family As a Team
We especially like to participate in jobs that we can do together as a family as we do the work of a family international volunteer trip. This might sound like a tall order if you have young children, but you’d be surprised at how many family-friendly tasks teams offer. Because we purposefully go on family international volunteer trips together, working side by side with our children is a priority for us. Our children have helped us build mud stoves in Peru, paint, do landscaping work, and plant trees. They are also excellent ice breakers when it comes to making friends with the children we meet!
Passing the Torch
A family international volunteer trip only lasts a week, and it is important to remember that not every job needs to be completed by your team. Often, other volunteers will be coming after you to pick up where you left off, and your program fees might go towards helping pay local individuals do the work themselves for an income. This helps remove the pressure of ensuring that a project is completed “on time” and instead places the focus on a job well done. There is also a sense of working toward something more significant that others will continue once you’re gone. You are just one brick in the wall – essential, but a part of a grander plan!
Flexibility with Location
In many situations, the local coordinator will have some tasks that could be done in multiple locations as you do the work of a family international volunteer trip. This is especially true if weather is often unpredictable and an outdoor plan needs to be moved indoors at the last second. Some of the tasks we have worked on inside are as follows:
- Teaching and playing games with kids at schools
- Paving an indoor concrete floor in a family home
- Shelling beans for local farmers
Impact: Long-term and Short-term
Not every project that we’ve completed will have a long-term impact, and that’s okay. Even short-term improvements done as part of the work of a family international volunteer trip can significantly impact the lives of the people and communities we have had the privilege to visit. Small things such as paying your drivers, servers, and vendors well helps the local economy. Even kind and encouraging words, humble service, and a cheerful heart can leave a lasting impression.
Six Trips and Counting
Our family has been on family international volunteer trips to Peru, Costa Rica, South Africa, Guatemala, and Kenya all coordinated through Globe Aware. Sometimes the work has been light, and other times it’s been difficult. Mixing and pouring concrete in the pouring rain in Costa Rica was one of our most challenging days! However, we have also had wonderful experiences doing enjoyable tasks with great weather in amazing locations. We loved visiting Peru and volunteering in preschools hidden up in a remote mountain village. The children were precious, and the views were stunning. We have also been on a family international volunteer trip to Indonesia with Kingdom Workers. We enjoyed meeting the people there and hearing from them about the impact of the water solution systems for them and their communities. Read more about our trip to Indonesia here: 6 Examples of God’s Kindness: Lessons Learned on our Family Trip to Indonesia
In all of our travels, we have tried to use the gifts that God has given us and trusted that He would work through us to help the families and communities we were there to assist. We know that the benefit might not even be evident at first, but we trust that it will become apparent in time. The people we have had the joy of meeting have always been happy with and appreciative of the work we are doing for them. We understand that these trips will have challenges and will not necessarily be fun and relaxing all the time, but the blessings we see through what they provide cannot be overstated.
You don’t need to be an expert to do a family international volunteer trip. Much more important is a willingness to learn, a good work ethic, and a cheerful attitude. Wanting to help better others’ lives is easier caught than taught, and working alongside your children as you all strive together is an experience worth a hundred conversations. The families you help will not be the only ones affected: you and your children will be as well. By modeling humility, service, and flexibility, your family can have the joy of experiencing a truly unique kind of “vacation” that you will never forget.
Does it take work? Absolutely.
Is it worth it? One hundred percent.
If you are interested in planning a family international volunteer trip, check our An Excellent Guide to Planning Your Family International Volunteer Trip: The Logistics!
- You do not need to be an expert in the field to make an impact as a family.
- Working together as a family to help others is a great privilege.
- You will not need any special equipment on trips like this.
- God can work through your efforts no matter how big or small they seem.