If you’re looking for a means to travel the world and give back to the community for your gap year, you can sign up for volunteer work. There are plenty of gap year programs in a variety of fields and in almost every country. Whether you want to be a medical intern in Nepal, an environmental conservationist in Fiji, or an English teaching assistant in Greece, there are several opportunities for you.
Gap year programs can benefit more than just the local community though; it can teach you many important life lessons too. Some of these are:
1. Even the smallest of things can make an impact
Before signing up for a volunteer program, you might be wondering if you can really make a difference. Yes, you actually can! Even if you do something as trivial as reading a book to a child or digging up a well in Gaya India, you are making a difference. You are, after all, building a base for them to further their learning or to improve their way of life.
2. There are numerous things to be grateful for
You’ve probably heard of the phrase “first world problems”. It’s a tag or quip people use to refer to issues only privileged people could complain about. An example is when you complain about lukewarm showers. Once you’ve volunteered in a third-world country, you’ll learn how amazing it is that there’s even a running faucet within a home.
3. Being adaptable makes more memorable experiences
As you would expect from volunteering in places like Bodh Gaya India, you won’t be eating your usual foods or living in Western-style accommodation. You might have to fetch water for bucket showers, sleep on a mat, or eat rice three times a day. Embracing the fact that you’re having such a unique adventure will make it more enriching.
4. Hard work isn’t always about monetary gain
Growing gardens, caring for animals, teaching children, and building homes are things that will take hard work, devotion, and time. However, they are all worth the blood, sweat, and tears in the end. If you only work to make money, you won’t be able to leave the local community with something that will help them in the long-term.
5. No culture is better than another
Whether you’re working in rural healthcare or disaster relief, it can be easy to develop an egotistical or arrogant nature, especially when the culture is very different from what you’re familiar with. You have to realise though that no matter how much money you have your culture is not better than theirs. By changing your mindset, you might even pick up ways you wished were more central in your own culture.
Seeing the many things you can learn, have you prepared yourself to sign up for gap year programs yet? If you are, you should get in touch with the Involvement Volunteers Association or IVI. They are a non-profit organisation that has been around for more than 25 years. They are deeply rooted in volunteerism and not voluntourism so you can be sure that you’ll actually be there to help people and not sightsee.