Volunteering abroad

Lots of people get a lot out of volunteering abroad.Eliza and Francesca are two of those people and they explain what they did and the impact that volunteering abroad had on them below.Eliza Harry on volunteering abroadWhat I did and where I wentLast summer I travelled to Hamle 19 School, volunteering abroad in conjunction with the charity Link Ethiopia to help build the foundations for a new library and to organise activities for the young pupils.The school sits at the end of a mud track, which the children have to negotiate every day. The site included a handful of classrooms with walls painted a soft yellow and streaked with the dirt from outside.The children we met were eager to show us their exercise books and what they’d been learning. They were proud of their school and wanted to contribute to its growth by helping us however they could. They insisted on carrying heavy buckets of cement and digging holes for us and it was clear that they viewed education as a privilege.What I enjoyed about volunteering abroadMy favourite part of volunteering abroad was getting to know the pupils, who ranged in age from 5-18. Despite the language barrier, we were able to interact through playing football and frisbee. They also taught us how to playCousCous– their version ofDuck, duck, goose. One of the boys had a beautiful voice and sang songs by Celine Dion and Justin Bieber – an indicator of the rise of globalisation and how connected today’s world is.My most memorable afternoon whilst volunteering abroad was spent with the younger children. We gave them colouring books and they all crammed into the small classroom. They were so excited and pleased with the drawings they’d done, it didn’t matter that the pencils were blunt and the tables were broken and crooked – they were content just to be creative and the setting was irrelevant to them.Volunteering abroad was a valuable experience for me. It showed me how unnecessary it is that we value material possessions so highly and how worthless they are.The United Nations rates Ethiopia as the 14th least developed country in the world but it is rich in many other ways. My experience of volunteering abroad has made me question what development is. Is it simply an accumulation of wealth? How important is it really, compared with the deeper but less obvious values of openness, hospitality, cooperation and pride displayed by the Ethiopians I met?Volunteering abroad in Ethiopia has developed my understanding of how different societies operate and how important family, a sense of shared heritage and community are to me.Francesca Moll on volunteering abroadWhat I did and where I wentI went through an organisation calledIVSCwhich sends a group of English volunteers to various schools in Yangshuo every summer. I’d recommend doing something similar as it makes the logistics a lot easier, especially if you don’t speak Chinese.Hello from Guangxi province, China! That’s in the very south of the country, near the border with Vietnam. I’m spending five weeks this summer teaching English in the beautiful Yangshuo, a bustling tourist town near the province’s capital Guilin, which is about a ten hour bus ride from Hong Kong.It’s so pretty here! Yangshuo is famous for its dramatic Karst Mountains and river scenery. A few miles away at Xinping are views featured on the 20 Yuan banknote. There’s also plenty to do – at the weekends you can cycle along winding roads, through rice paddies and fields of lotus flowers, hike up one of the famous mountains or head to one of the beaches by the Li River to cool off.Yangshuo itself is a fast-growing town where cars, scooters, bicycles and motorcycle taxis jostle noisily for space on the roads. It boasts busy shopping street, restaurants serving international food and a lively bar scene.Why volunteer abroad?If you’re stuck for something to do in the long uni summer, volunteering abroad can be a cheap and enjoyable way to truly experience another culture. English teachers are in high demand in China and most schools in Yangshuo offer free accommodation and food to volunteers as well as remuneration of around £200-500 a month.I’ve had such a great time in Yangshuo this summer – if it sounds like something you’d like to do too, all I can say is “go for it!” -You can find opportunities for volunteering abroad on our search opportunities page.

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