Being a Voluntary Worker - Introduction

Published: 06/21/2013

Doing voluntary work while you travel the globe is a growing trend.  Not only is it a great way to connect with the heart of a community while you’re out and about but it’s just as great a way to gather work experience internationally whilst having the added pleasure of discovering new places and people.  Either way it’s a win-win situation. 

The definition of voluntary: ‘done, given or acting on one’s own free will’.   Yes, it is voluntary i.e. not paid for and you therefore are none-the-richer by the end of it but in terms of experiences and lessons learnt, you couldn’t find a better school which you would leave feeling like a millionaire.

Some famous volunteers include: Ben Franklin (creator of bifocals) who started the very first voluntary fire department and coined the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Franklin got a group of 30 men together in 1736 to form the Union Fire Company, the sole purpose of which was to prevent massive fires in Philadelphia; Agatha Christie (famous writer) who became a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay from 1914 to 1917.  Franklin’s work was local and Christie’s was one involving travel and undoubtedly both would have been as satisfying.

Consider why it is that you want to volunteer.  Are you looking to build your skill set and learn new trades?  Do you want to work locally in your own community or country or expand your horizons and go global?  Do you want to meet people?  Do you enjoy the line of work that you’re in currently?  Do you want to pass on some of your knowledge to others?  These are the sort of questions you need to ask yourself when deciding on a path you’d like to follow in your voluntary work.

Once you’ve decided where you want to be and the line of work you want to be in, decide on an organisation that you are passionate about or that makes sense to you.  The library is a great place to work if you feel strongly about literacy.  Serving up meals in a soup kitchen is a great way to interact with people in need but there are also things you can consider like ushering at a local theatre, building homes or doing hospital or animal shelter work.

There are countless positions available in third-world countries working to help communities build healthy water systems, grow crops and develop schools and just as many doing nursing jobs and assisting in giving aide to the sick and suffering who need only one dose of antibiotic or a simple procedure to reverse blindness that just isn’t available otherwise.  Just as important is getting food to the malnourished, another field available with many positions for voluntary workers.  For example, the Mercy Africa ship spends all year docking in harbours along Africa’s poorest coast line and locals are welcome to board the ship and be treated for ailments which are often life-saving.  Voluntary work is most necessary in today’s society where the divide between the well off and the poor grows ever-larger.

Posted in: General Travel
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