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Pros and Cons of Volunteering Abroad

International volunteering is an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and give back. Therefore we want to discuss the pros and cons of volunteering abroad today. The humanitarian work that volunteers do abroad is extremely valuable to them and the communities they serve.

However, there are also some drawbacks to volunteering internationally. It’s important to make a careful choice about the right opportunity for you. Additionally, it is essential to avoid “voluntourism” which is often an unsustainable way to try and help those in need.

Are you considering international volunteering? Here are some pros and cons that could help you make a decision before you travel. Let’s look first at some cons and then discuss why you should still do it!

Lets put a smile on faces around the world

Con #1: Falling in the “voluntourism” trap

Probably the biggest issue with international volunteering is “voluntourism.” The term applies to short-term volunteer trips designed as a sales package, rather than a way to help others. These became very popular in recent years since people saw an opportunity to make money from international volunteers.

In fact, in some countries, these can have a definite negative impact on communities. For example, in Nepal, companies create orphanages just to attract volunteer tourists. The children in these homes often have a living parent. This is not only unethical but creates a cycle of dependency.

To avoid these types of international volunteer traps, make sure to do extensive research before you go. Particularly, it’s important to volunteer with a credible organization.

Con #2: Expecting to change the world

All volunteers who travel abroad believe in making the world a better place. However, it is important to have realistic expectations of a volunteer experience and the impact one can have. Of course, volunteering can have a positive impact. But at the end of the day, it won’t necessarily change the world on its own.

If you are considering an international volunteer opportunity, make sure you are realistic about your impact. Know that you can help, but it is sustainable change that is truly needed. Additionally, remember that communities have their own agency. You are there to help but also to grow and learn yourself.

Con #3: Looking for a volunteer vacation

Another con of volunteering internationally is that it really isn’t a vacation. Many companies advertise sightseeing as one of the main benefits of volunteering abroad. However, this is simply incorrect. Volunteering abroad is hard work.

As such, it requires a proper commitment from participants. If you are looking to have a relaxing getaway, the international volunteering may not be the right choice. However, it is possible to explore a new country while on vacation and volunteer there at a later date.

Con #4: Never being the same

Volunteering abroad can (and should) be a life-changing experience. In fact, many long-term volunteers experience reverse culture shock when they return to their homes. So, it is possible that volunteering will change you in many ways.

While it is usually a positive change, it is a personal challenge. It’s essential to be prepared for growing and learning.

Lets put a smile on faces around the world

Pro #1: Using your skills to help others

Of course, volunteering abroad has more positives than negatives. The main goal is to help others, and you can do just that. This is particularly true if you have some particular skills.

When choosing a volunteer program, think about your skills and where you can apply them. For example, if you are a doctor, you can be of essential help in communities with limited access to healthcare. Teachers are also in high demand.

Pro #2: Boosting your CV/resume

Another benefit of volunteering abroad is that it can be a great addition to your CV. It shows commitment, ability to adapt, teamwork, and practical skills. Also, you can demonstrate things like language skills if you practice while in the field.

For entry-level professionals, international volunteering can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door. And for those further along in their career, it can help apply practical skills which you might not use on a daily basis.

Pro #3: Learning a new perspective      

While helping others, volunteers themselves can gain a lot. We already discussed how you could benefit professionally, but volunteering abroad can also help you grow personally. This is the big difference between local and international volunteering.

When you go to a different country to volunteer, you will be exposed to a different culture. This can help you to gain a new perspective on the world. It will also open your eyes to the realities that people face on a daily basis. This can be a very powerful personal growth experience.

Pro #4: Never being the same

And of course, never being the same can be both a blessing and a curse. Long-term volunteers return to their homes and realize that they have changed. That’s because the exposure to new experiences made them learn more about themselves and others.

This is an incredible journey, which can help you become the best version of yourself. But it’s important to make the commitment to that kind of growth!

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We believe our world is a better place when compassion can travel where it is needed most. As a global humanitarian travel organization, we devote ourselves to serving those who serve the world. Our experienced staff can be reached at any given time. Please use our quick address locator to contact your nearest Raptim office should you have any questions. You can also follow our blog for more stories and travel information.

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