Arguments in favour of volunteer travel

Before I left home in October I knew myself to be a strong, independent woman. I did not need anyone else to look out for me. I could handle myself;  deal with stuff as they happened. I was the poster picture of modern woman! Yeah!

Then Kenya happened in my life and I have add to realign and re think certain beliefs about myself and my surroundings.

When I was planning on volunteering I scoured the net looking for resources on what to do and not do.  I came across a lot of contradictory ( and at times rather abusive ) articles and comments related to the topic.There were those who were all for it and then there were those who lashed out even before you said”volunteer”.

I am no expert on this topic but I would like to add my thoughts and my experiences to the millions of threads that are there on the net devoted to arguing for and against volunteering. Before you read any further I would like to add that I consider volunteering to be a very personal thing. Having said don’t make up you mind as to whether it is a bad aspect or a good one until you have spent at least a week volunteering  far away from home.

A lot of people who offer opinions about volunteering ask you not to  travel hundreds of miles across the globe to grab some one else’s job. Instead. they say donate all the money you would have spent travelling to a  NGO. It is my opinion these noble souls have not volunteered a day in their life in a location far away home.

Think of it as a two-way education. When you use your skills at the project site, some one else learns it too. So what you are doing is in fact sharing your knowledge and learning something else in turn. Do not ‘ONLY’ donate your money to an organisation. Spend it at the place too.  My view of this is that when you donate some/most/all of your donation goes into keeping the administrative side of the organisation alive.  The entire amount does not reach the people at the ground level.

On the other hand when you spend your money at the site, think of the cycle you start. You pay for your food and shelter to a family. The family uses it to buy food from the local grocer, who needs to replenish his stock and so uses the money to get fresh stock from the farmer and so on.

  Another argument for volunteer travel and one that is close to my heart is human connections that it creates. I cannot put down in words just how wonderful people are. They  become part of your extended family.  Before October I did not really care about what happened in the coast of Somalia nor was I deeply affected by the famine in the horn of Africa. But today these things really matter to me. Today if I were to see a headline that remotely affected Kenya I would read right down to the bottom and even click on the related links. If it matters to them, it sure does matter to me.

Above all the argument that should put this debate to rest eternally is the aspect of change. The change they bring to themselves. I was foolish enough to think that I was going to change the world and such like. The person who I really changed was myself , to see myself for who I truly am, to recognise strengths that I never knew existed, to turn around  weakness.

So by volunteering you are not taking someone else’s job , you are simply providing yourself an education that the four walls of a classroom cannot.


8 thoughts on “Arguments in favour of volunteer travel

  1. There is nothing better than getting a hard day’s work without expecting a penny in return (or for that matter anything else)! In my job I don’t sweat a lot (at least while spending my time on desk); volunteering gives a chance to go out there and get something done.

    You know everybody out there wants to volunteer (read physical work) at some place or the other; whether it is a gurudwara, mandir, school or homeless shelter. But most hesitate because of uncertainty that follows such a decision. You did it! Job well done, Lisa!


  2. Thank you! And not just for this: “It is my opinion these noble souls have not volunteered a day in their life in a location far away home” which gave me a good, cathartic giggle (I agree by the way), but also for your other wonderful points. It is nice to hear other voices whenever they speak from the pro-volunteering side. We seem to be a much quieter crowd than those who make blanket statements against all volunteer travel. As a writer specialized on the topic I have to admit that there are even times I feel some of my fellow voluntourism/volunteer travel writers don’t particularly like the subject they put themselves out as experts about. It is refreshing to read you positive post based in first-hand experience. All the best in your future adventures.



    • Nola,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s such a wonderful feeling to know that there are other like minded people out there.

      I feel everybody should volunteer in their lifetime. They may change anything, maybe never even learn anything but I can guarantee you they lives will never be the same again.
      Have a good day 🙂



  3. Thank you for sharing your thought.
    I could look again the field where I am now.

    I feel money is not enough to satisfy many needs. I can only say about kids, they are always hungry for affection, knowledge and change. I think what you brought to here was everything what they wanted.

    Have a nice day!



    • Taeko,

      I think what you are doing for them surpasses everything. I was so ( I still am) inspired by your work at St. Peter’s.


  4. Lisa, your arguments for volunteer work sit very well. I am no expert and haven’t ever done volunteer work myself but your last paragraph about change is something that I can completely relate to. Really enjoyed reading this.


    • Thanks as always Priyanka. My whole outlook has chnaged after this experience. If you get a chance you should do it as a family.


  5. Pingback: Africa Volunteer Corps1 | The HeSo Project

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