Volunteer

Kelsey in Honduras

In the summer of 2005, I traveled with my church to a small town in Honduras. It was a two-day bus ride on bumpy and wayward roads from the airport in Tegucigalpa. We spent a week in a small, rural village laying concrete floors, building latrines (bathrooms) and digging trenches to aid water flow.

Volunteering abroad is a very different experience than traveling for fun. Here are some things to think about:

  • You may rarely, if ever, be clean.  In my case, I was constantly covered in a mixture of dirt, sunscreen and bug repellent.
  • Accommodations probably won’t be 5 star. Most of the time you will be in a third-wold country, and you won’t be staying in a fancy hotel. Expect bugs in your room, low water pressure and definitely no room service. But then embrace it – these experiences will help you grow!
  • The food isn’t gourmet. I was fed nightly by the locals running our ranch. The food was sometimes delicious and sometimes a little scary. But staples like rice and beans are always sure things!
  • Transportation is…different. Our daily hour-long trips to the village were spent in an old school bus sans air conditioning. Bring some music, cards, etc. to pass the time. And try not to freak out while driving on different terrain – like a dirt road on the side of a cliff.
  • There may be a language barrier. It will be beneficial for both you and the people you are helping if you try to learn the basics of their language. Beyond that, drawing pictures in the dirt and using vivid hand motions should do the trick. Just remember, speaking louder doesn’t help.
  • Pack light! Check restrictions with the airlines you will be flying on number of bags, weight allowances, etc. Also, don’t bring things like curling irons, makeup, expensive jewelry, etc. The purpose is to volunteer, not to look pretty. An exception would be if your group plans a nice dinner for the final evening or something similar. Then you should bring one nice outfit, but don’t go crazy. Finally, be aware of the cultural standards of where you are going. Make sure you don’t bring anything too revealing that could be offensive.
  • Don’t plan this trip yourself. Always coordinate a volunteer trip through an established organization. Our church went through Honduras Outreach Inc. based in Atlanta, GA. This is extremely important because these groups know how to keep you safe and healthy on your trip. There are numerous organizations out there, religious and not, to guide you where you want to go! Check out VolunteerAbroad.com for many opportunities.
  • Expect the unexpected. Bring everything you can think of regarding your health and safety. Bug spray, sunscreen, bandages, Pepto-Bismol (a MUST), Asprin, extra socks, an umbrella, multiple COLOR copies of your ID, passport and important numbers. You don’t want to be paranoid while your there, but just be aware. You are in a different country, and anything can happen.
  • Finally, HAVE FUN. These trips are seriously once-in-a-lifetime. Take time to enjoy the scenery, take pictures and really get to know the people you are working with and working for. A trip like this could impact your life forever, so make the most of it.

If you want to get away and explore a different culture, a different country and a different lifestyle, consider volunteering. You’ll not only help yourself, but you’ll help others as well.

Here are some pictures of my trip:

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