International Volunteering Really Changed My Life

Mar 7, 2013

Today's post is written by Bill, who completed his undergraduate studies in Secondary Education from Arizona State University.  After college Bill spent some time teaching Senior Economics in Anthem, Arizona.  Bill is currently a traveling teacher, who has spent time teaching in the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and Asia, where he has taught English, Health, Geography, Social Studies, and Outdoor Education.

In 2008 I was currently studying to be your average everyday teacher.  I knew what I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure why.  Grades in school weren’t something I took pride in and a C was just as good as an A to me.  My excitement in life was spending my weekends hiking and rock climbing in Arizona.  One day in class we had a speaker who was trying to sell us on an “adventure of a lifetime.”  The young Australian man spoke about riding river rapids, climbing cavernous rock walls and hiking humungous hills; I was hooked.  It was an adventure that also came with helping a community.  This was all that the young aussie said and after some research I found out that it was a volunteer adventure trip for college students in the Dominican Republic.  I had saved up some money and decided that this was the type of adventure that I was in need of and if I could help some people along the way then I’ve done my deed.

volunteering in the Dominican Republic

Once I arrived in the Dominican Republic I received my itinerary I found out that we would be doing three weeks of volunteer work before the adventure trip.  As someone who originally went for the sole adventure, I was a little disappointed.  What happened in those three weeks in June of 2008 changed my life.  I saw people in a whole new light that I had never even thought of.  I was starting to see people for who they really were and the potential that they had to help.  In those three weeks I spent every day volunteering to build a community center, homes, teaching English classes, or even just playing around with the local kids.  I was also able to see the potential that I had and what I could offer other people.  It gave me value.

After this trip I found that I took pride in everything that I had done.  I saw that value of my life and the skills that I had to offer myself, as well as the people around me.  I started volunteering more at home with Habitat for Humanity, the Boys&Girls Club, and even started planning another trip abroad to volunteer.  The following summer I planned a trip to visit the biggest slum in Africa, Kibera in the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya.  Three more life changing months later and I was sitting around a table with 4 other volunteers and a few locals put together an organization that would help give clothes, feed, find jobs, and educate children for internal refugees (IDPs) within Kenya.  At the end of the 3 months Marafiki Community was born.  Even though most of the original volunteers haven’t been able to make it back more than once to visit and help out.  We all still donate yearly and locals are now running the organization that is continuing to help make IDP communities more sustainable.

Since then I’ve graduate from college in Secondary Education, but my passion is still in teaching, traveling and helping those who are less fortunate.  In fact, today I still travel and teach as my career choice.  I have taught in South Korea and all around Europe teaching everything from math and social studies to outdoor education and renewable energy.  If it weren’t for my original trip to the Dominican Republic in 2008 where I truly learned what it felt like to help someone who really needs it, I don’t think I would be who I am today. 

Want to get involved in volunteering or voluntouring?

Today, there are so many resources that allow us to make a career off of helping people.  For college students there are organizations that specialize on getting to have the time of your life while volunteering.  They even have degrees in management that give you the proper tools to learn how to manage and run large organizations.  If you are just looking to try it out, then you can become a certified TEFL instructor.

I can honestly say that my volunteering experiences and I believe I can speak for those I have volunteered with, have changed my life.