Monday, June 15, 2009

Supported Volunteering

~ Why Choose Supported Volunteering?
by Bruce Haxton

Travelling and volunteering abroad can be a life changing and amazing experience. Volunteering is a brilliant way to broaden your travel experiences and your perspective on the world; you may even come back an entirely different person! A change of place, pace and people can be wonderfully exciting, but it can all seem a little daunting!

A Helping Hand
If you want to go out and explore the world and make a difference too, it can be a little harder than you first thought to leave everything you're used to behind. It can also be tricky arranging all of the details of your own volunteering experience but there is a travel solution waiting in the wings…Projects! Choosing a supported volunteering project will give you a mixture of the best of most volunteering programs. You'll have unique opportunities to be part of schemes that directly benefit the community, plus there'll be tons of support available before you go and the whole time you're there, as well as insights from in country staff. On top of all that, you'll also get flexible time frames; a chance to really become part of a county's culture in a way you simply couldn't on a normal travelling trip.

These types of trip offer plenty of independence too; help and advice are usually available but not mandatory! You can be as independent as you like but will have the incredibly useful resource of in country co-ordinators to help you get to grips with your new surroundings, and to make sure you get everything you possibly can out of your experience!

Cultural Immersion
This kind of travel will give you not only the chance to see the world on your own time scale and back up if you need it, it will also enable you to make a real difference. It's a good idea to check out the credentials of the company you choose to volunteer with first. The most important thing is to make sure the projects they work with are set up by the community for the community. That way not only do you know you're making a positive contribution while you're there, you also know that the work will continue once you've left.

Another cultural bonus is that projects set up by the community will give you a chance to work directly with the locals, so you can see just how much you're helping and get a unique insight into their culture. You can also get a real understanding of the individual needs of the community; from why wildlife conservation is so important in New Zealand to why teaching is so important in India. Living with locals, working for locals and socialising with locals will definitely make you feel like part of the community!

What sorts of projects are there? There are literally hundreds of volunteering choices out there so it seems almost impossible to find the right one! Volunteering itself will always prove a brilliant and fulfilling experience but it's always best to choose something you're passionate to make it feel even more worthwhile! So what inspires you? Is it working with people, nature or wildlife; or all three?! Generally projects fall into four categories;

• Community work
• Nature conservation
• Teaching
• Wildlife Conservation

Each offers a valuable, unique and worthwhile experience; so it's up to you whether you want to work with elephants in Sri Lanka or get involved in community work in Mombasa. Projects will help you step into another life and culture as well as giving you the opportunity to give something back!

Take a look at this volunteering company for a few ideas;

About the Author, Bruce Haxton
I'm totally passionate about travel, it's been my life and work for a good few years! My travel adventures haven't really been about seeing monuments etc but far more about people and getting off the beaten track. I would like to share my many experiences and offer a little advice if I can to fellow travellers or anyone who is just about to set off on a life changing trip!

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