The benefits of volunteering, for a volunteer, can be immediate and can last a lifetime. However, the principle benefits of volunteering should always be felt by the projects themselves, as we strive to improve or enable the outcome of the community based organisations we support. We do this in a number of ways:
Enable projects to exist – Some projects may not exist without volunteers. While this is broadly contrary to the idea of sustainability, volunteers do play a vital role in conservation projects that would not otherwise happen if it weren’t for the enthusiasm and support of international volunteers. Keeping projects going has to be one of the key benefits of volunteering.
Emily, Nepal 2017:- “I felt very happy and proud when I left that I’d managed to make something of a difference. I had 4 main projects:
1) Improving the children’s English. I taught the 3 eldest classes in the school, as any younger than that and they couldn’t understand being taught in English. We worked on building up their vocabulary, using verbs adjectives and nouns, syllables, correct singular and plural word endings etc. For the younger class I did a small project with them making a booklet comparing Nepali and UK culture. Each page covered a different topic eg. food, transport, religion, geography, time difference, seasons
2) Teaching music to the children. This turned out to only be possible for the oldest class as any younger than that and they struggled to understand or didn’t have the finger dexterity to play the recorder. It was about 20 kids in total which I divided into two different ability classes of 10 kids each. By the end they could play 4 different music pieces using 3 notes they’d learnt on the recorder, and understood different rhythms. They also understood some basic music theory and key terms, and could read music from the book, a huge achievement.
3) Teaching music to Tarpan, a 16 year old student at the local secondary school and previous student at OGN. He’s coming back to OGN next year once he graduated to be employed as their art teacher. At his current school he’s started taking flute lessons, so Sunita suggested I also teach him recorder so he could take on the role of OGN music teacher as well. He didn’t know how to read music, so I taught him music theory 3 days a week after school for a month. By the end he was helping me take the children’s music classes, and could teach a group of kids a new piece of music by himself. Hopefully all of this will make it be a sustainable project.
4) English advancement classes for the teaching staff. I’d take the 7 teachers for a lesson 3 days a week after school, each lesson about an hour long. We covered lots of topics, based on an initial discussion around what they felt would benefit them and their work. I wanted to make sure it didn’t feel like an imposition or an insult to their English speaking ability, so I made sure it was a project driven by them. It was a great success. Most of it was revision of grammar which they hadn’t practised since college, and we did some more vocabulary building, practice of comparatives/superlatives, homophones, pronounciation, conjunctions, prepositions etc. Also some fun lessons on idioms and English slang phrases. I gave them worksheets and mini tests which they enjoyed and took very seriously, and typed up revision sheets which they could keep and look over in the future.”
Most volunteers only want to help improve the life of others, but it is a very real fact that many of the benefits of volunteering are experienced by YOU. This is not something to shy away from; it is a force for good – something that will create future benefits for you and others.
Employability – ‘Volunteering makes you more employable’ is our pet hate. It is not an inevitable consequence of volunteering, but rather a potential outcome. How well you adapt to the cultural immersion, how well you fulfil your volunteer responsibilities, how you reflect on your experience and how well that informs your views; these will all determine how you develop your potential and whether you can communicate that development to future employers. If you can secure a new job through your new experience, then that must be one of the key benefits of volunteering.
Maddy, Mexico 2016:- “I would definitely recommend this experience to others as it has changed me for the best. It has allowed me to develop my confidence in my own ability and around others which has been a problem for me, and also given me the ability to form friendships and do things I never thought I could. The people and the atmosphere were amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience it has even helped me decide what I want to do in the future. I have actually been looking at Conservation and Zoology courses at university and I want to do a similar thing for a career. I would like to thank everyone who helped me from Outreach International for helping throughout my time volunteering experience and the staff and volunteers at the camp for making me feel welcome. This experience has changed me for the best and I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I would definitely recommend volunteering with Outreach International it will change you for the best!”