As I sit here in Bali getting ready to start my volunteer placement and ending my introduction week to Balinese culture, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for my next blog topic. As I observe the people around me I came up with the perfect topic.
This is probably the 3rd or 4th time I have done volunteering abroad as the form of my vacation and this is the 2nd time I have noticed the pervasiveness of the following.
Young people - College age individuals and younger - going abroad to "volunteer" but doing little research on their location, not really caring about doing their actually volunteer work and worried more about going out at night and where they can go on the weekend than about respecting the local culture and customs. Before I go on I should say this isn't all young people but just the majority I have seen. There are some great young people going abroad doing amazing things but, unfortunately, they are the minority.
In terms of the topic at hand I will give you a few examples. In most places I have been there are teaching English placements and volunteers have to be up and ready to be engaged with 6-12 year olds for at least 3 hours a day. Unfortunately, they make many volunteers make the decision to go out and party hard the night before and are either still drunk, hungover or unable to keep up with this highly energetic group of individuals. Even worse some don't even make it to their placement because they sleep through it or are too hungover.
The lack of research and not respecting the customs and culture tend to go hand in hand. Several of the places I have been to have been more conservative than the western world yet I have seen volunteers walking the streets in a bikini and coverup or cutoffs and a strapless top and wondering why they are getting unwanted attention. This attire is fine for the beach areas but not for residential living as a volunteer. Most especially when they tell you to do the exact opposite.
Volunteering abroad is a means to see another country. However, it shouldn't be a time to let it all out if you are volunteering. That isn't to say you can't have an amazing time because you still can but you need to do your research about where your going and how you should act and dress so that you represent yourself and your country proudly. In this day and age connections are far reaching as is information so you can't use the excuse that I am from X so I didn't know.
There are still ways to travel cheaply without volunteering because sometimes volunteering isn't for everyone. I wish more young people would keep their actions in mind as they go into the global world and use the social media they are always on to do more research on where they are going as well as practice what they find.
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