This article was originally published on our blog in Spanish. You can find the original article here.
In this article, I am going to tell you about my own volunteering experience, what contributions I had and what I continue to contribute, but also of the possible inconveniences that you may encounter along the way.
When I did my first volunteer, my life changed radically. However, I have to admit that I would never have made this decision, but I thank my friends who forced me to try this. My experience is based on volunteering at the world championship of ultimate Frisbee in an Italian town called Lecco.
It consisted of two championships of about seven days each, with a week of rest in between, so in total it was almost a month away from home, speaking English and Spanish (my level of English was quite unfortunate), with people ultimately unknown … I was certainly not that kind of person, but I decided to try. And, telling the truth, I’ve never regretted my decision. That month in Lecco was one of the most fruitful of my life, and I swear to you that I do not exaggerate if I say that it changed me completely. I’ll tell you why.
Here are some of the benefits of joining a volunteer mission:
You will meet many new people
Any type of volunteering is usually teamwork. This is very important because during this work you will meet many new people who can help you grow as a person and grow professionally. Also, if you are an international volunteer, you can create many contacts in different countries around the world. In this way, when you want to travel, you will know in which countries you have, friends and you can contact them, which can facilitate many things and encourage the trip.
You are going to expand your horizons
The most important thing is that each new person you meet opens up your horizons a little more, offers you valuable time and allows you to know new points of view. This counts even more if it is people from different countries and different cultures. After all, knowing better the foreigner you get to know yourself better, so in this case, there is nothing to lose, you just win.
You will gain a lot of personal and professional experience
As we have said from the beginning, volunteering is one more way to work. Therefore, with each volunteer engagement you gain a valuable work experience that not only helps you to grow personally and take responsibility for your actions but also allows you to gain experiences in different fields, such as the organization of various activities, intercultural communication or many field-specific lessons. This is an essential fact that you can add to your resume and that can help you get a job.
You can practice languages
Whether it is volunteering abroad or with foreign people, it is one of the best ways to practice languages. As I said before, when I did my first volunteer work, my level of English was not very good, and I did not dare to speak. However, the situation compels you to speak, and I have to admit that in a month of volunteering I learned more than in several years of study in the institute.
Volunteering also serves to develop communicative skills in your language, as it forces you to talk to people, be in contact with them and continually transmit various ideas.
You will get to know yourself better
In volunteering, you will, of course, be forced to question concepts that you have hitherto taken for absolute truths. The new points of view that you will have to face will allow you to see the world from a different perspective. But also different situations often help you to know your limits since on more than one occasion they go hand in hand with a certain dose of sacrifice (for example, accommodation and food do not always respond to optimum quality). On the other hand, however difficult it may sound all this, I assure you that with people around you these situations will be much easier and will allow you to create a specific “bond of complicity” with others.
First of all, you’re going to help
However, the most important thing is that as a volunteer you will offer your help in a disinterested way. Before signing up for any volunteering, you should keep in mind that if this option is offered, it is usually because this kind of help is needed. Remember that along with other volunteers you will do the project in which you participate to move forward. There are different projects with different types of “importance” (it is not the same to offer medical assistance to children in Africa as it is to collaborate in a discussion workshop), but you should know that however small the project, it can change the life of a person, and for me just thinking about it is already a good reward for my work.
And … the disadvantages?
I will have to disappoint you, because volunteering has only one drawback, and it is precisely the fact that you do not have one. It may sound very exaggerated, but in, the reality it is right and not only my point of view. It is true that volunteering requires a lot of energy, time, sacrifice, and sometimes a certain amount of money (depending on the situation), however, all these things done with a positive attitude and good cause are no longer disadvantages, and they become a great benefit. Not everything will be like a walk in paradise, of course. My first experience was at times rather the opposite. However, the good always compensates for the bad and my case is a clear example. Since that time, I have gone back to volunteering every summer, and I will try to do so as long as circumstances permit.
I hope this article has cleared any doubts you have about participating in volunteer work, and that it has prompted you to think about the possibility of embarking on one. You know, there are never enough volunteers. And of course, if you have any experience to share with us, we will be happy to read it in the comments section!