Let’s start honestly. The main reason that I am doing volunteers work is NOT because I want to help other people. Some people say they want to help others and that is THE reason they do volunteers work. Personally this isn’t the case for me. Besides that if you really want to help people, volunteers work isn’t most of the time the best thing to do. It is better to become a social entrepreneur, start your own business in a development country, create a product that helps the community, helps the environment and create jobs.
Unfortunately a lot of volunteers projects harms the community more in the end that it benefits them so I am always very careful that I only choose projects where the community isn’t dependent on me as a volunteer but that they can also survive without any volunteers.
My main reason to do volunteers work is because the best way to integrate in a country is to work with the local people. There is no better way to discover what a country really is to get in touch with locals. And making new friends when you are working in a community helps a lot on this.
In Ghana I lived in Lwengo, a rural community in the south of Uganda. You need to travel from Masaka a couple of hours on dirt road to reach this place. But when you live here for a month and work with all the different people, from community workers, to elderly, to children and even at the hospital then you really discover what it is to live in Uganda.
The same was the case in India. How many people can say that they have slept for a month in a hospital in India? The project was run by local nuns. However I as a guy, am not allowed to sleep in there guest rooms. Because they were also nurses at the hospital next to the building, the solution was that I slept in my own patient room in the hospital. Quite an interesting experience, to know, that the hospital is your home for the next month. Not to forget to mention that I had to put my feet through the bars of the bed because I don’t meet the Indian height standard.
Doing volunteers work brought me to interesting places. And let me do interesting work. From singing Dutch children songs in English (“head, shoulders, knees and toes) in primary schools in Taiwan, visit a huge 18th year old birthday in India, to be the best man on a wedding in Ghana. This list can go on and on, I didn’t even tell about all those lovely school performances in India, or playing black peat in Tanzania. So if you want unique local experiences volunteers work is the way to go.