Recently a friend returned from a Peace Corps volunteering assignment overseas. At first glance she seemed to be the same person I last saw two years ago. But as she described her experiences abroad I realized that she had a much broader perspective about many things especially related to how little some people have, how much of their lives centered on daily survival and how difficult that survival can be both physically and emotionally.
At various points in my life I thought about volunteering overseas. After I graduated from college there was a period when I was not certain which direction to pursue. I spoke to a couple of organizations about volunteering. Then a job offer came along, and college loan payments were due so I joined the workforce.
Several years later I found myself between jobs and thought again about volunteering but by that time I had additional financial obligations (mortgage and car payments, etc.) and I accepted the next job offer. Then came the kids. Throughout my life I volunteered locally: fundraisers, food drives, soup kitchens and several other short term volunteering situations. Now here I am thinking about volunteering overseas again as I approach retirement.
This time the job will come to an end, the kids are self sufficient, my financial obligations have been met (mortgage paid off, latest car paid off, credit card payments almost paid off), I am single again. So this may be the best time to volunteer.
I spoke to my Peace Corps friend about it and also checked out several sites and found the following:
- Help bring a community together to work towards a common goal. Whether providing education for the children and/or adults of a village or digging a new water well volunteering can bring people together to support common goals.
- Save valuable resources that a community can use for other urgent needs. A village may not need to hire a teacher to educate its children or doctor to heal the sick if volunteers can provide those services. The resources saved can be used to purchase equipment for farming, fishing, etc.
- Help a community or individuals recover from a disaster.
- Help a community become more self sufficient by providing education, expertise, resources and the latest technologies.
- Provide hope for improved lives especially to those in isolated communities/villages.
- Provide connections to other volunteers/resources through organization or corporate networks to provide required expertise.
- Establish lifelong relationships and friendships.
While many view volunteering as providing your time and skills for the benefit of others there are many reasons to volunteer that also benefit you.
- Introduce you to new cultures, environments and lifestyles.