If you read my last post, you might have a hint that in 2013 I took a big leap of faith and bought a ticket to Kenya, that forever changed my life and the way I think. My trip there was actually for an opportunity to volunteer, where I worked in a school, hospital, and also did a mini internship with the organization that I volunteered through. Oh boy, What an experience that was! In this post, I’m going to highlight the 5 things I learned whilst volunteering abroad. I hope to inspire those of you that are thinking of doing so, it really was an incredible experience that I would never take back.
So, without further ado, this is the 5 things I learned while volunteering abroad!
1. You learn the world is a whole lot bigger than you.
For any traveler, this is an epiphany many of us have when we step into a new city, with millions of others worrying about other things than what is going on inside your head. But volunteering especially makes you realize that the world is not what is inside you, but also continues without you, whether you like that idea or not. I found this to be incredibly humbling.
2. You question whether life has meaning
I really struggled with this one. I had a lot of friends and family tell me how philanthropic I was to go abroad and ‘help the children’, however I found my experience to be rather the opposite while I was there. I was volunteering my time because I had the resources to, yet some of the children and families I met couldn’t eat full meals three times a day. Not only that, but how could I help them? I could give them money, however that still doesn’t solve the problem on when that money runs out, they still won’t have food to put on the table. What was the point? I asked myself while I was there. Now, I realize that although it was tough, if I made the slightest difference in someones life than that was all that mattered.
3. You Learn to be Less Judgmental
The judgements I made during that time were incredible! How could I judge someone whom I have no right to judge? Mainly because it was a reflection within myself. I was judging others about weight, religion, attitude, all of it. However, I realized after my experience these were all my own insecurities. Once I realized this, I was set free. No longer did I hold judgements over my head, I let others be who they wanted to be, and I ended up meeting many amazing people because of this.
4. You learn to let things go
If the motorbike driver ripped me off, if it took two hours for my food to be served, if I was hounded by sellers on the street, I had to let these things go and move on. Getting angry doesn’t serve you, nor does it serve anyone else. Learning to let things go increased my happiness immensely!
5. You learn to be selfless
Signing up to be a volunteer, I didn’t realize how selfless you have to be in order to fully give yourself to those that you are helping. If the girls at my school wanted to learn something about the United States and talk to me, but I wanted to go back to my home stay and nap, I would stay and talk to them as long as they wanted me too. I knew I was called there to help others, and so sometimes my wants were put on the back burner.
My time volunteering was an incredible experience. I won’t be shy and say some were bad, but every experience brought me joy and a lesson learned, for without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today.