Benefiting others

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:

  1. Volunteers increase capacity – By far the biggest benefit our volunteers offer projects is extra human resource. Many projects can only provide a basic level of service, with just enough staff to ‘get by’. An overseas volunteer provides the extra capacity required to:
    • Improve the outcome for clients: having more staff means that the project can offer a better quality of service. Whether teaching children English, providing basic nursing duties or looking after disadvantaged children, the presence of volunteers means there is more time available for each individual; more time to care, teach, play and support those in need.
    • Improve the quality of life for local staff: for staff trying to cope with high numbers, the support of volunteers can be a life changer. Committed local staff are often stretched, stressed and potentially dissatisfied with the level of care they can offer. A volunteer’s help allows them to act and think differently – enabling them to do more of the work they have a passion for, with less limitations.
  2. Provide new skills – One of the best benefits of volunteering arise when a volunteer provides skills that cannot be sourced locally, because they either don’t exist or they can’t afford them. From dance instructors and sports coaches, to lawyers, HR managers and specialist doctors, volunteers can offer skills that supplement existing activities or help transform a project’s performance
  3. Transfer skills – The optimum benefit of volunteering is when a volunteer transfers skills to the project, making the impact more lasting and the project more sustainable. This could be teaching new handicraft techniques to a cooperative, or sharing new therapies in a clinic; both have a lasting impact for the community they serve
  4. 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.
  5. Promote a cause – The presence of volunteers on a project can be an agent for change. Governments keen to manage the perceptions of their country abroad take an interest in the activities of NGOs and volunteering organisations. Hence the attention of volunteers feeding the children of a rubbish dump on our first project in Mexico eventually led to the local authorities establishing a care centre and school for the children, which volunteers continue to support.

Benefiting you

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 the volunteer themselves. This is not something to shy away from; it is a force for good – something that will create future benefits for you and others.

  1. Cultural awareness – By its nature, volunteering overseas gives volunteers a deep insight to a local community and offers an experience quite different to that of a traveller or tourist. Living and working among a community is a unique way to understand how others live, survive and thrive – their challenges and their celebrations – giving volunteers a better understanding of the global community we live in
  2. Perspective – A lasting benefit of volunteering is through witnessing and supporting the most challenging projects. By operating in basic conditions, run by humble local staff and yet typically surrounded by smiles and laughter, volunteers gain a new sense of perspective on their own lives – a chance to press the ‘reset’ button on what is important.
  3. Professional experience / development – For volunteers evaluating a new career, working on their qualifications or looking to gain alternative experiences in their current profession, then participating as a volunteer provides invaluable experience. One of the benefits to volunteers is the ability to observe, practice and develop your vocational skills in another country and social welfare system
  4. Languages – All volunteering experience are enhanced when you use the local language and Outreach International encourages and facilitates this learning whatever your destination, with language classes often being included in your placement fee (see Project Pricing for details)
  5. Life skills – Volunteering is never a passive experience. Volunteers learn to travel independently, live and work in a new cultural environment, communicate in a different language, adopt new responsibilities that are typically unstructured and live and work alongside new colleagues and friends – all in challenging conditions of some sort. To do so, volunteers develop the communication skills and maturity that reflect the experience, leaving them better equipped to face life’s future challenges.
  6. 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.
  7. Life’s Rich Experiences – Both on the project and in the free time around the project you are sure to make new friends and share some incredible experiences and good times together. All the countries we operate in have amazing sights and attractions for volunteers, and sharing these experiences with like-minded volunteers will undoubtedly offer you friendships and memories to last a life-time.