I had been traveling quite a bit over a three month period; Boston, Las Vegas, London, Spain, Portugal. I would no sooner get home and play catch up only to be on the next flight out. I was taking in all the sights, surrounding myself with culture and meeting new friends yet I constantly bounced from place to place.
After consistently living out of a suitcase, it was time for a break but I wasn’t ready to stop traveling. Rather, I needed a place to rest my head for longer than a few days. Somewhere I could settle in, kind of like a home away from home. And I found that outlet in volunteering.
It was my break to sit still, learn about a culture and create friendships that will last a lifetime. But with this decision came loads of research and countless conversations to get me to where I wanted to go. So here are a few things to think about before embarking on such a journey.
Where to go
There are so many developing countries as well as the evident third world countries that need, or rather deserve a helping hand. And because of this, it is the hardest decision to make; which country should I willingly give my time to?
Take into consideration the climate, the culture and the customs. Sit down and learn about the history and the peoples’ struggle. Understand the type of government in place and understand their economic status. It is important to know which areas of life are major shortcomings to the people in which to give them the most guidance or help. And last but not least, remember, this is a place you will spend a significant amount of time, so choose a country you are interested in “getting to know.”
Since I was a little girl, I was always eager to step foot in the continent of Africa and work side by side the people. It was my undying mission through life. And after hours of reading and weeks of comparing, Kenya was the country and Njoro was the village I chose to stay put for three weeks. Located in east Africa, I was in the Rift Valley about an hour outside the town of Nakuru and three hours from Nairobi.
What to do
Whether you grew up with a passion, like I did, or you are just now thinking about volunteering, the type of volunteer work is a major decision. And this decision goes hand-in-hand with the country you choose. So after you narrow down the country, think of how you would like to spend your time on the land. Maybe it’s digging for a well, providing assistant to a crowded orphanage or volunteering in a local hospital but whatever it is, people will idolize you so be passionate about what it is you will do.
I decided to help out at a local school; education has always been an important part of my life and I wanted to see to it that others were just as involved and excited about learning. I worked with the administration and staff from Yasha Ministry, a primary grade school, helping to organize the logistics of the school.
How to find the opportunity
This might be the most challenging decision. There are so many organizations to go through you could easily become overwhelmed. But figure out what type of volunteer mission you, yourself are on; religious, personal, work-related or just for fun. If it is religious reasons, I recommend you get involved with your church or affiliate sectors. And the Internet can be of help for all the other reasons. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are major tools that update and engage people in opportunities. It is an easy way to stream questions or look for volunteer organizations to get involved. Search these sites to the fullest by following certain individuals in the industry and write on walls of different volunteer groups. It is word of mouth that will land you the greatest opportunity. Get other people’s opinions and feedback from their volunteer mission as well as asking those important questions lingering in your mind.
I went the Facebook route; joined a few groups, “Kenya Volunteers,” “International Volunteers: WhyKenyaAdventures,” and started conversations as well as directly contacting many volunteer abroad companies. After meeting helpful people and receiving numerous brochures on volunteering, I had made up my mind. And I went a completely different route than I had once been on, a long time ago. I met a strong, dedicated and honest woman through a Facebook group who welcomed volunteers at Yasha Ministry, the school she started seven years ago after uprooting her family from South Africa. We conversed for many weeks, came to know each other and understood one another’s goals. We worked out a plan and I was on the next flight to Kenya.
It was everything I dreamt it to be since I was a child and, for me, it provided the break I was looking for; a personal mission to learn about myself, spend time helping natives and create friendships that will last a lifetime. It is an experience of a lifetime; so go ahead complete your mission!