Volunteering Abroad 101
Volunteering Abroad 101
I will be taking you through the reasons of why you should (or shouldn’t) pack up your bags for a few months and do something that you can’t put a price on…
Most people I talk to are scared of going alone or not knowing anyone when they get there.
If you decide to go alone, the only time you will ever be literally on your own is on the flight. I’ve found that people who go in bigger groups tend to stick to the people they came with, eliminating one of the best factors of going out there in the first place.
Usually, you will stay in rooms of 4/5, which is basically like a version of Uni halls, but with people you are guaranteed to like, as no one is going to want to live in a house with strangers halfway across the world, unless they are as crazy as you.
You all become family within days. One drunk night out, 4 Smirnoff ices (black, if you know you know) and a few of the local shots later and you are all walking home telling each other how much you love each other, and if they want to spoon you in your mosquito net that night. And yes, even on a volunteering trip someone may still eat your last tin of beans. Not to mention everyone’s toilet situation will be heavily discussed daily, or how much you miss your dog… which is a lot.
You can pretty much be as flexible as you like. With volunteering from painting, building, care work, teaching, nursing, to conservation, with different places around the world having different needs. I have no experience at all in teaching, so decided my efforts would be put to better use if I helped with the building at schools every day for two months, making my trip extra rewarding as I could see the physical difference I had made.
I went to Morocco a couple years ago and to Bali the year after that, and I didn’t feel as though I made a massive difference to the children or community I worked in, but it was a great starting point to ease me into my first few volunteering trips.
That is why next time I decided to go to a much more underprivileged 3rd world country like Ghana, where after working there for 3 months all together, I felt I had made much more of an impact, and could also see a significant difference in myself after those 12 weeks… I won’t go into the mushy stuff.
We used to roll out of bed at 7.30, and be in the taxis by 8.30am. A day at ‘work’ usually lasts until 3pm and then you are free to explore the local town, go out for dinner, go to a local hotel for swimming, climb the nearest mountain (seriously), it’s pretty chilled.
Stopping off at the nearest waterfall to have the closest thing you’re going to get to a shower was my personal fave.
You get weekends off to take road trips, which is a great way to explore the country you are in whilst volunteering as well, time off is never a bad thing.
I am very aware that some volunteering companies do more harm than good. Do your research to make sure that the work you will be doing out there is actually beneficial to the local community, and is not just a holiday with a bit of teaching the alphabet.
Original Volunteers hire and pay local carpenters and people of similar trades to teach and help us to do the job properly (putting more money into the local community), therefore making the work we do more sustainable.
You can get this experience for relatively cheaply, again, depending where you go or what company you go with.
To give you an idea, going with Original Volunteers to Ghana cost me:
£95 a week (watch out for discounts)
Flights- £400ish (direct is more £)
£10/£15 a week for food!!!!!!
Excursions at the weekends- £40-80
3 month visa- £50
£100ish for malaria tablets/jabs
Some companies have local homestays which cost next to nothing, flights to Central/South America can be quite costly, some companies have a joining fee, so it varies quite a lot.
Just make sure you do your research.
If you fly to certain places with BA they let you take around 3-4 suitcases, so always check as that means you can take loads of donated clothes to give out!
First World Problems
I’m not going to sugar coat it, if you can’t go without a hairdryer, straighteners or wifi for a few weeks then volunteering abroad probably isn’t for you. This is obviously depending entirely on what country you go to. Some places may have internet cafes nearby, but if you are still thinking of what your mates are hash-tagging on insta then you probably could do with a detox anyway.
You also need to be ok with the lack of shower/hot water. In Ghana we would fill up a bucket from the collection of rainwater outside and tip it over you. It actually ends up being exactly what you want after a long day of mixing cement or looking after a class of 10 year olds all day!
You get to become a local, learn a new culture/language, meet new people, learn to teach/build, the list goes on. The experience and friends you will come away with are irreplaceable, even if you do have to put up with weird accents and buy a railcard to see them all around the UK.
If you have any doubts or are finding it hard to imagine what to expect, below is a video of my time in Ghana, hope you enjoy!!
P.S. I am talking about my own experience. I have only ever volunteered in Ghana, Morocco and Bali, It will always be slightly different wherever you go, so this is a rough guide!