How You Can Change the World Through Volunteer Work

How You Can Change the World Through Volunteer Work

by Derek Turner

An excerpt from The Voluntary Traveler: Adventures from the Road Best Traveled

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

For many of us there comes a point in life, when you take pause, look around and realize we have it pretty good. It’s that moment when you discover that no matter how many points the Dow has dropped, or how high gas prices have become, we still live like kings and queens compared to a lot of people in the world. Then comes the wave of guilt, compassion, inspiration - whatever it is that moves a person to say: “I want to do something. I, (insert full name here), want to make a difference.” How and where do you begin? There are needs everywhere, but it can be hard to know where to start. Fortunately, there is no one right answer, but I’ve learned a few things since I began.

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 

 

 

Here are five tips to help you find volunteer opportunities

1.    Contact Before Contact: If you’ve never been to a place and would like to get involved, the best thing you can do is find someone who’s been there. Ask around. Try to find a contact who is already plugged in. If you don’t mind letting someone else call the shots, there are a number of volunteer companies that can organize your entire trip. On occasion they’ll at least provide a name or email. Personally, I started with Facebook. Asking friends or friends of friends for advice, usually (or eventually) I found someone in the country I was headed for. Not only can they help you find a project, they can help you find the bus station.

 

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 


2.    Watch and Learn: The more you know about a culture, the more you’ll understand their true needs. If you can, learn about the culture before you visit. Read about their history, their current situation. This will help you relate to people you may not have much in common with. But even if you enter a country, without a contact or prior information, you’ll learn a lot just by watching.

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 


3.  
  Ask Around: As simple as it is, nothing has paid off for me more than this. It doesn’t take long to spot a malnourished boy or a girl with no shoes, but some problems are hidden. I knew there were children with needs in the Dominican Republic, but I didn’t realize children had to meet certain uniform requirements to go to school. Even the “Tourist Information” may be able to point you in the right direction.

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 


4.    Be Flexible (in action and idea): Even if you know the project beforehand, you may be asked to do something that to you seems unimportant. Be prepared to be insignificant. Not all jobs are glamorous and often times you will be behind the scenes where neither you nor your work are obvious. And that’s okay.

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 


5.    Be Cautious: Remember that in most places, especially those with heavy need, you will be viewed as wealthy. Compared to them, you are. There is a chance when you start offering help, you will be bombarded with requests. Use discretion. I always try to respectfully verify the request with a second or third, unrelated source.

 

Derek Turner, Volunteering Abroad

 

 

You know that bumper sticker you see on the back of VW buses that says “Practice random acts of kindness”? Well, I don’t have dreadlocks and I’ve never lived in a commune, but I think it’s true. I’m convinced that most things in life are self-perpetuating, which is why when someone does something nice (or not nice) to us, we in turn are moved to also do something nice (or not nice) to someone else. You might change the world. You might find and fill some need so vital it affects an entire culture. Or you might just hammer a nail that holds together a humble home for someone who’s less fortunate.

 

Derek Turner

 

When Derek Turner left a career in sales and marketing to sail around the world, he wanted to do more than just see places. He wanted to make a difference. What started as a pipe dream in philanthropy soon became “The World By Sea.” (www.theworldbysea.com)  a website designed to entertain, inform and inspire readers to be a part of grassroots humanitarianism. You can follow Derek Turner’s journey and random acts of kindness on his website.

 

Derek Turner

 

 

The Voluntary Traveler: Adventures from the Road Best Traveled is published by Dog’s Eye View Media and is available at Borders Bookstore or your favorite online shop.

 

 Photos courtesy and copyright Derek Turner.

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