Whether you’re interested in a research internship or a summer volunteer program abroad, volunteering can be an incredible opportunity to experience new cultures and countries, while also working with local communities to help make a meaningful impact. Here are 12 reasons to volunteer this year.
1) It’s good for your mental health
Over recent years, an increasing amount of research into the mental-health benefits of volunteer work has emerged.
Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where mental wellness and mental health are being so widely discussed, acts of doing good for others seem more important than ever – and the effects are felt in multiple ways.
It’s been said that doing good for someone else interrupts tension-producing patterns in the brain and replaces them with a sense of purpose, positive emotion and higher confidence levels, and that people who volunteer feel a greater sense of satisfaction with their lives and consider their health generally better than those who don’t.
2) It improves your employability
Recruiters rank volunteer participation higher than personal presentation when looking at prospective candidates.
3) You’ll learn new skills
Employers look for candidates with a range of hard and soft skills, and volunteering gives you plenty of opportunities to add to your personal and professional skill set.
During a volunteer program, you’re faced with problem-solving tasks on a daily basis, and have to work collaboratively with a team of mixed personalities – all while adjusting to life outside of your comfort zone.
This experience helps to improve your teamwork, leadership, problem-solving and people skills.
4) You’ll gain hand-on experience
Volunteer work, both practical volunteering in the field and through virtual volunteering programs, gives you insight into real-world contexts and helps you gain hands-on experience. And there are so many opportunities to choose from such as wildlife conservation research, childhood development opportunities or marine conservation.
With GVI you can get involved in tracking jaguars in Costa Rica, monitoring sea turtles, increasing teaching capacity at schools or earning Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) qualifications while contributing marine conservation in some of the world’s most sought-after dive sites.
5) You’ll make an impact
You have the chance to contribute to the kind of community and world you want to live in, either by volunteering abroad or from your own home.
Whichever cause you choose to support, you’ll have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself and assist in making a positive impact across the globe.
This could include making an impact in women’s empowerment, wildlife or marine conservation, or community development.
6) You’ll contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, the United Nations (UN) announced its agenda for sustainable development over the next 15 years.
Volunteering gives you the chance to be a part of addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges and play an active role in the global community.
7) You’ll assist people in empowering themselves
Adding to the self-empowerment of people can make your time abroad more meaningful.
You can volunteer on a community development program that works towards the self-empowerment of local people.
This may include contributing to public health awareness in communities, assisting people to learn English to up their employability, or you could run workshops with women to assist in the development of their professional skills and help increase their job prospects.
8) You’ll travel responsibly
Volunteering abroad with a responsible volunteer organisation like GVI allows you to travel with a purpose. It makes it possible for you to reduce your social and ecological footprint by taking part in activities that are both ethical and sustainable.
Before deciding on a program, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will it benefit the local community?
- Does the organisation respect the local culture?
- What is the reason behind your volunteering trip?
- What challenge will the end product assist in addressing?
Always keep in mind that you’re there to contribute to impactful initiatives, and you can’t do that if the needs of the community aren’t being met.
9) You’ll make meaningful connections
Another good reason to volunteer is you’ll meet people from all walks of life. It gives you the chance to form relationships that can have a lasting impact on you.
You could meet your new best friend, future business partner or have a conversation that sparks a change in your life.
10) You can learn a new language
According to research, learning a new language helps to boost brain power, improves your attention span, boosts your creativity and develops your ability to multitask.
By taking the time to learn a country’s languages, you’re also opening yourself up to its culture and history, and will be better equipped to engage meaningfully with local communities.
A great way to learn a country’s language while volunteering, is to volunteer with an organisation that works collaboratively with local community members.
This exposure allows you to learn about cultures different to your own and to expand on your worldview.
11) You’ll become immersed in the community
Living in a community away from home can give you a different view, and respect for people and their country. You’ll be immersed in a new culture, which means you’ll learn about life experiences different to your own while interacting with community members on a day-to-day basis.
In many of our locations, including Chiang Mai, volunteers reside in a local homestay – meaning that they live with a local family.
Volunteers spend their free time learning to cook with their host family, helping with chores, sharing meals and learning about one another. It’s a great opportunity to experience a meaningful cultural exchange.
12) You’ll be inspired
Are you feeling stuck in a rut? Or maybe you’re unsure of what to do with your life, or what to study after graduation?
You can use volunteering as a way to get out of old habits and routines, and help you figure out what your next steps will be when you return home.
Taking a break from your day-to-day routines, putting your life into perspective and learning about other people’s lives might inspire an idea or spark a new interest.
You might come up with a plan to build on the development of your own community, or discover a new life calling.
Are you ready to get out into the world and contribute to impactful programs?