Devoting holiday time to volunteering continues to boom in popularity, with record numbers of people travelling both domestically and abroad every year. Here are some of the most interesting facts about helping overseas:
Africa Isn’t the Top Destination
Many associate volunteering abroad with starving African children. But while Africa did used to be the hottest volunteer destinations ten years ago, according to a study, last year the top three volunteer destinations included Thailand at the top, followed by India and then Peru. This is probably because Asia is a much more affordable continent than Africa, where prices typically inflate for tourists. Africa may not have the highest number of volunteers visiting each year but it remains the favourite among volunteers when planning.
Mental Health Benefits
Did you know that volunteering is proven to have both mental and physical health benefits? From boosting self-esteem and increasing independence to feeling less lonely and lowering stress, there are many personal upsides to volunteer holidays. Lifestyles often get muddled at home, getting away experiencing a more basic lifestyle can help declutter the mind and liberate you from all of the necessities you think you need.
And although it is easier these days to make friends with apps and social media at our fingertips, we are having fewer face-to-face interactions. Communicating only through keyboards causes an increase in loneliness, whereas volunteering is rarely done alone. Fellow volunteers support each other as they work together towards a common goal. It is not uncommon to make friends for life on a project and plan a second trip together.
Evidence showing the mental and physical benefits of volunteering:
- ADHD volunteers noticed their focused increased on projects.
- The increase in social interactions have positive benefits on the body.
- Those who are active volunteering are less likely to become stressed or worried.
You Can Volunteer At Any Age
Despite common belief, volunteering is for all ages not just for gap-year students and recent graduates. Many people don’t realise that between November and May most volunteer projects hardly have more than a couple of gap-year students on them! I met many travellers taking advantage of a sabbatical or career change, doing something worthwhile whilst seeing a new part of the world.
A change is as good as a break, because the nine-to-five lifestyle of many adults can cause a rut. Getting away provides time to reflect and really get to know and stretch yourself. Many employers are happy to offer unpaid time out and with many projects welcoming volunteers from as little as a week, there is no need to quit work to help out.
It’s More Affordable Than You Might Think
Debunking the myth that volunteering abroad is only for the upper classes who can afford extortionate programme fees, low-cost volunteering has become increasingly available. It is now possible to find programmes which may cost only modest amounts or even be free! There are many low-cost organisations out there providing supported, organised projects at a fraction of the cost. They may require a bit more searching online.
Employers are always looking for different and unusual things which separate candidates from the flood who apply at a time when online job applications are so easy and only one click away. Employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who aren’t solely focused on good grades and those who have gone above and beyond.
A lot of volunteers miss out on job opportunities by not including volunteering on their CV or by not going into details of the impact they made. The smartest volunteers I met photographed and recorded themselves helping overseas, being sure to demonstrate qualities employers wanted to see and then preparing a volunteer portfolio to take to interviews after they returned home.
Not only does volunteering help people become more employable, it also provides an opportunity for networking, opening career paths that weren’t even considered or heard about before. When you live and work 24/7 with people from different backgrounds you can get great ideas, short cuts and insights direct from the horse’s mouth!