True Worth of Volunteer Programs Overseas

Overseas volunteer programmes have always been a popular option, especially among young people who are looking to do some good and have the time of their lives while they're at it. Their popularity has soared in recent years with many thousands choosing to spend a month, a year or even longer helping out on a charitable project abroad. This article aims to see what the true worth of these programmes is and what they're actually able to achieve on both an individual and wider level. 

Types of Volunteer Programmes

As the popularity of this type of volunteer work grows, the immense variety of different programmes expands as well. Firstly, the duration of these projects varies quite widely. Some are a mere two or three weeks long, allowing the volunteers to complete a small project or contribute to a wider one, such as helping to put together desks for a school. Others last anywhere between six weeks and six months, wherein volunteers are able to totally immerse themselves in the culture that they choose to visit and can see much larger aims reach completion. Longer programmes can last for twelve months or more, which can be ideal for ambitious gap year travellers. They enable them to become part of a wider endeavour, such as teaching or looking after animals, or to participate in multiple volunteer schemes.

Further variety comes from destination of choice. Once again, the enormous demand for these programmes means that there are opportunities to take part in one type of project or another across the entire globe. Usually, these sorts of programmes are linked to working with underprivileged groups or in areas where financial resources are scarce and the majority is found in the developing world. Among the most popular destinations are sub-Saharan Africa, South America and parts of Asia. The projects to get involved with are equally diverse, from education, medical services and construction of key facilities to caring for the disabled, preserving endangered species and breaking down cultural barriers.

Individual Worth
To assess the true worth of volunteer programmes abroad, there are two main areas to look at. The first is the benefit to the participant and the second is the benefit to the community or project that they become involved with. In the first case, many volunteers will benefit hugely on a personal basis, even in the simplest of ways, such as boosting confidence by travelling, often alone, to a distant and very different land. They may also have the chance to learn new skills, whether these are practical, such as a form of manual labour, or more intellectual, such as learning a new language. Certainly, if the volunteer is willing to embrace the experience they will return a better-rounded person by the end of it.

Wider Worth

In addition to personal development, a gap year or similar volunteer programme can actively contribute to the community in which it takes place. For example, the building of a school with volunteer labour cutting down the costs could improve the lives of countless generations of children for a long time to come. Helping to preserve an endangered species and save them from extinction is undoubtedly a worthy cause.

In conclusion, the true worth of overseas volunteer programmes appears to be twofold. Both the individual participant and the target community are set to benefit greatly. Travelling abroad also helps to create a wider 'world without borders'.

Martin George writes regularly on volunteer work for a range of charitable sector websites and blogs. He is also highly passionate about breaking down global cultural barriers.

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