Friday, January 10, 2014

Five reasons to try Voluntourism.

Whether it is serving a Thanksgiving meal at a soup kitchen or teaching children in a Haitian village, volunteers give of themselves and ask for little in return. More than 64 million Americans volunteered last year and hundreds of millions of people volunteered worldwide. The majority of Americans volunteer in the United States, within their community, but many Americans -- reports say up to a million -- volunteer overseas every year. A new term has been coined for this trend –Voluntourism.

Here are 5 reasons to try Voluntourism.

1. Cultural Immersion. 

When you volunteer you become totally immersed in the culture by working, living, and engaging with the local people. You will hear their stories and learn their history. You will interact with other “volunteers” from all over the world. You will be helping a cause you care about and participating in a hands on way. While you may have to do some hard work, it’s exhilarating, challenging and it’s for the benefit of those who need it most. 

2. Gaining through Giving. 

We've seen terrorist attacks, tsunamis, earthquakes and economic collapses recently. Our worldview has never been more focused on others' misfortunes. We want to engage more, and help more. Through voluntourism trips, you can still see the world, but you get so much more back knowing that you saved lives or you helped a cause.

3. Knowledge is Contagious. 

The more you learn on your travels, the more information you'll have when you get home to educate others about what you've experienced. My first volunteer experience was in Haiti at an abandoned hospital and orphanage. I worked for a New York Ad Agency at the time and needed a cultural shift. I came home from that trip to my writing desk and I shared that knowledge. I hope I influenced a few people into changing their travel plans to include volunteerism when they travel.

4. It’s Good for Your Mental & Physical Health. 

Volunteering has been shown to help decrease rates of depression, increase your intellectual ability and reduce your chances of getting heart disease! We’ve all had bouts of depression where it feels like your life is a mess, nothing’s going your way and the future looks bleak. Nothing is better for depression and low moods than getting out of your own head and helping others. You can help animals, people or the environment. Your choice; your cause. You may think you have it bad but when you see that others are faring far worse, you’ll want to help in any way you can. In helping them, you gain a little perspective that will forever stay with you.

5. It Will Change Your Life. 

It changed mine and it will change yours too. Reaching out globally to help others has become part of my life mission. Every year after my first trip to Haiti, I looked forward to returning for a few weeks and assisting in rebuilding this small corner of the world. It gave and continues to give my life purpose to aid those in need and it fills my spiritual bank account each time.

Just because the road is less traveled doesn't mean it isn't worth taking.

Voluntourism isn't for everyone, but if you've read this far, I am hoping that it is for you. Whether you volunteer internationally or choose a domestic destination, doing something different and discovering new cultures are empowering experiences. Consider including some volunteer work in your travels. You will gain more than you give.

Nancy Burban 2014

Funeral fund


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.