International Volunteering – Be Inspired, Be Proactive, Be Challenged!

by Alex Howarth – YEUK Youth Ambassador

Long Summer holidays are the reward at the end of a long and studious year, and many take this time to relax, kick back and chill out.

However, not everyone spends their time idly. As some sink into a sofa ready for the next season of their favourite TV box set, someone, somewhere, is jetting off to an international destination to make a difference to those who are in need.

This article does not intend to deter you from binge watching the latest season of Game of Thrones. However, I hope it will inspire you to push yourself into a potential opportunity to broaden your horizons, help those who need it the most and improve your personal statement which will help you enormously with your employability.

I volunteered in Peru last year, when I was 16, for four weeks with an organisation called CAMPS International. This experience was the most life altering journey of my life thus far. I can compare nothing to the hardship of the people we helped and it shocked everyone of us that went on the trip. That expedition has left a desire to further myself and it works like a domino effect, in that it inspires and motivates people to get more involved locally, nationally and internationally in altruistic projects.

Since returning I have joined the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) disability and hate crime community involvement panel, taken a more predominant role in my local youth council, and become a police support volunteer in just one year! This summer holiday I intend to go on another expedition to a disaster relief project in Nepal and to complete a summer camp on peacebuilding and conflict resolution. All of which will enhance my CV.

I have done all of this with organisations and projects specifically tailored to my interests. When I was in Peru, my favourite part was building vital infrastructure in towns. For others, it was teaching or conservation. The point is, an international expedition can be completely tailored to your needs and interests, so get looking there is something for everyone!

A big myth is that all expeditions abroad cost a lot of money and are, therefore, only accessible to those who can afford it. Whilst it’s true that they often are expensive, there are ways to overcome this. I personally raised the £4,000 for my expedition (which is expensive even by expeditions terms) to go to Peru, as did 8 other young people from my college. So, it is easier than it seems, all it needs is an idea and some effort. However, I would deter anyone who thinks it is a holiday, it is an expedition, you don’t get leisurely lie-ins or Martinis. It’s early mornings, long journeys and hard work, but the reward at the end of the day makes every ounce of effort worthwhile.

Lastly the personal change it has on your mental wellbeing and view of the world is astonishing. Although the adverts run by large charities like Save the Children may bring a tear to your eye, nothing compares to the humbling experience of witnessing poverty and severe hardship first hand.

The most significant part of the whole trip, which stays with me to this day is the look of excitement on the children’s faces. After the first day of work in a school with little children and seeing their joy, there wasn’t a dry eye amongst our group. The children had hardly anything. No books, a few chairs and fewer desks and yet they were a hundred times happier than almost any child in school in the UK. It can be equated to simply every day at school being like Christmas.

So I implore you to look, nothing binding, just have a browse. See if there is something for you and if there is grab it with two hands. Not only will you develop your personal statement and employability skills, but it will also be something that changes your life for the better, that much is guaranteed.

 

Here are a few links to some starting places:

NCS (National Citizens Service): http://www.ncsyes.co.uk/

CAMPS International: http://campsinternational.com/

Projects Abroad: http://www.projects-abroad.co.uk

 

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