5 Reasons to volunteer and vacation
1. Professional development:
How many times have you seen job descriptions which require one to be a “team-player”, to have “good communications skills”, to be used to working in “an international environment” and to show that he/she is “self-motivated”? Nowadays, more and more employers from different sectors seek to hire enthusiastic individuals with a global outlook. Collaboration and communication skills can not only be developed in the office or at school and university.
Volunteering abroad is a perfect opportunity to enhance one’s ability to work well with people from various backgrounds and nationalities. You will meet people from cultures different than your own and work with them to achieve specific goals in sustainable projects. What better way to show that you are self-motivated and willing to go the extra mile to your future employers?
2. Seeing a place through the eyes of locals:
Let’s play associations… I say a word and you say the first thing that comes in your mind when you hear it… Caribbean!!! What will you say? “Tropics”? Or maybe “beach”? “white sand”? Many people think that the Caribbean is simply a dream vacation destination with beautiful landscapes, white sands, hot sun and enticing waters. Volunteering in the Caribbean will show you that the islands can offer much more than all-inclusive hotels, palms and beaches.
You will live with local people, eat locally produced food, learn about a lifestyle different from your own and go places that tourists rarely have a chance to see.
Living in another country, especially one so different than your own, can be a truly eye-opening experience. Simple everyday things, like using public transport, going to a party or even finding a shop to buy a drink can be challenging when you don’t understand how things work in this new and exciting place. But these are just opportunities to show yourself that you are more resourceful than you think! You will learn how to be prepared for the unexpected (for example, preparing food and water before going to remote areas or making sure you have copious amounts of mosquito spray).
You will become braver and more confident to venture beyond your comfort zone in order to meet new and interesting people and embrace exhilarating experiences. These new people will probably have values, beliefs and life styles much different than your own but engaging with them and trying to understand them will make you more open-minded and able to challenge your own views, practices and principles.
4. Become healthier:
Picking delicious mangoes from the tree in your back yard, roasting bread fruit in an open fire, buying veggies from local farmers– you will be surrounded by all natural food that is a true source of vitamins and minerals. The Western market can rarely offer such an incredible variety of foods that have not been genetically modified or chemically enhanced. This fresh diet, combined with the clean air and the nourishing waters of the sea and rivers will truly make you feel more healthy and energetic.
Also, and more importantly, the act of volunteering itself can make you a much healthier person, both mentally and physically. A recent study “has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer”.
5. Dedicate your time to help others
Whether you are working on a community development project, engaging with vulnerable children, or assisting with wild life conservation, there is no other feeling more rewarding than that of knowing that you have helped someone (or something!). This is what makes volunteering an extremely worthwhile experience. People around you will notice your dedication, appreciate your skills and recognize your genuine desire to help those less fortunate than you.
You will gain a sense of personal achievement and will create life-long friendships based on compassion, devotion and understanding. Here is what a V2 Volunteer said when asked what was the best part of her three-month programme in Jamaica.
“Being a volunteer was an incredible experience for me. It was amazing to see the happiness in children’s eyes when they saw us coming to work in their community. After each day of work, people would come to shake our hands and express their gratitude, sometimes even gave us little gifts, flowers or fruit. Knowing that I have worked for the benefit of someone else makes me get up with a smile every morning.”