10 Reasons To Volunteer Overseas In 2018

10 Reasons To Volunteer Overseas In 2018

Most of us have considered the appeal of working or volunteering overseas at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, few of us ever actually get around to doing it. Financial pressures simmer, social and family responsibilities dominate, careers tie us down; life gets in the way. But the truth is that volunteering overseas is one of the most rewarding and life-altering activities a person can do, and is easier to do than you might think.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to use your skills to create meaningful change, to become immersed in a new culture or to experience a completely different day-to-day life, why not seize the day and make 2018 the year you volunteer overseas?

Need convincing? Here are just 10 reasons to volunteer overseas in 2018.

1. Experience a new culture

Becoming immersed in a new culture is difficult, regardless of how well travelled you are. That being said, it’s one of the most important experiences to have as a citizen of the world. Stepping outside the comfort and familiarity of your own culture and learning about a new one will help you better understand the vast diversity and complexity of the world you live in. You will question your pre-existing ideas about the world and grow as a person. The benefits are endless.

2. See a new part of the world

Itching to experience something completely different? Volunteering overseas lets you experience a part of the world that you may not ever get the chance to visit as a tourist. It also gives you the opportunity to experience people, culture and nature in a way that tourists don’t get to. Making local friends, getting to know your way around town, finding hidden off-the-radar gems; becoming a local in a new part of the world is a rare opportunity, and incredibly rewarding.

Encounter participant in Timor-Leste with arms around two local friends.

3. Make life-long friends

Making friends as an adult is hard, especially when you’re stuck in an unsatisfying routine. One of the highlights of volunteering overseas is the meaningful human connections you will make within your new community. Many of the friends you make while volunteering overseas will be life-long, which is a beautiful and rare thing.

4. Develop new skills

Regardless of what you’re working on, your experience as an overseas volunteer will see you develop skills that will serve you for the rest of your life. Among the many skills specific to your job you will develop, your cross-cultural communication, patience, tolerance, resourcefulness and mentoring skills will flourish (after being put to the test!).

In addition, employers are increasingly realising the value of experience working cross-culturally, volunteering and extensive travel. Your ‘time away’ may end up being the best thing for your career back home.

Liz Keating with her students.
Volunteer Liz Keating with her students at Instituto Filhas de Maria Auxiliadora in Baucau.

5. Become part of a community

Anyone who’s ever volunteered overseas long-term can attest to the life-changing experience of becoming welcomed into a new community. It’s an experience that is hard to come by in our busy lives in the West, and one you will never forget. As you adjust to life in a remote community, eventually your friends, colleagues, neighbours, and acquaintances will feel like family and become the support network you never realised you needed.

6. Learn a new language

Always wanted to learn a new language but struggle to commit the practice it takes? When you immerse yourself in a new culture, you will find that learning a new language is easier than you think. Not only will learning the local language help you gain confidence and independence in your new community, it will also help you make valuable human connections. Palms Australia volunteers are given an introduction to the language of the country they will be volunteering in as part of their pre-departure orientation training. This helps them hit the ground running when they arrive.

Teacher at St Dominic's School, Bougainville
Teacher at St Dominic’s in Bougainville.

7. Make a difference

It’s not often that we get the opportunity to make a lasting, valuable difference in the lives of people that need it. That’s what makes volunteering overseas so appealing to so many people. When done well, volunteering can be the most ethical, life-changing activity a person can engage in. Not only will you make a difference in the life of another person (or people), you will find that the experience will change your own life, for the better.

8. You can bring your family

Having dependents and/or a spouse shouldn’t stop you from experiencing the magic of volunteering overseas. In fact you may find that volunteering with loved ones makes the experience that much more enriching. If your family or partner is interested in joining you overseas, Palms Australia can help you make it happen. We can arrange placements to suit couples and families in most of the countries we work in, and provide the support necessary to help make the experience as smooth as possible.

Barry Hinton and his two young sons riding a bike in Timor-Leste

9. Financial responsibilities can wait

Unless you have prohibitive debts or non-negotiable financial commitments, you may find that volunteering overseas can actually be less disruptive to financial responsibilities as you think.  Many of our volunteers that own property find that renting it out while they’re away is sufficient to pay mortgage repayments and even save on the side. Once you have a plan to cover any non-negotiable expenses while you’re away, you’ll find that getting away from the financial pressures of the West is incredibly liberating.

10. It’s good for your health

We all know that volunteering makes us feel good, but recent research tells us that it can actually contribute to our mental and physical wellbeing. Not only do people who volunteer feel more socially connected (which can help with loneliness and depression), they also experience better physical health, including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. Need we say more?

If you’re ready to start your journey and become an overseas volunteer, enquire now.