Project Abroad volunteer travel to give back and grow
GIVEjoy posts have been largely focused on my experiences and other adults. Today we’ll expand our perspective… Do you have a teen or young adult who is looking for an international volunteer experience that fits their particular needs, interests? Well, I’m guessing you are not alone. Elizabeth Cauchois and Shir Bekhor, Projects Abroad alumni volunteers and current Program Advisors shared more about the program along with their personal experiences.
Below are highlights from our correspondence:
Could you tell us more about Projects Abroad and the program mission?
Projects Abroad was founded in 1992, to provide opportunities to students to teach English and other subjects in Eastern Europe. It has since expanded to over 30 countries, with a wide variety of projects ranging from Medicine to Microfinance to Conservation. Our overall mission at Projects Abroad is to encourage young people to volunteer for worthwhile work in developing countries. We expect that doing this kind of voluntary work will, in time, become the norm. As more and more people join us, we aim to create a multi-national community with a passion to serve, to learn, to understand, to teach, to inspire, and to be inspired. Volunteers choose their start and end dates, with all of our projects running year round. While some do have requirements (relevant experience or knowledge of a foreign language), many do not. It is a great way for volunteers to give back, while also providing support to local communities in need!
You’ve also participated with Project Abroad as a volunteer. What inspired you to take that trip?
I always wanted to volunteer abroad, since it’s not only an opportunity to give from your personal experience, but in return you learn so much about a different country and a different culture – much more than by just being a visitor or a tourist. After I graduated from my undergraduate studies I really wanted to travel for a long period of time, and incorporating volunteer work to my trip just made it more special and less self-centered. Projects Abroad has so many opportunities to choose from – and their years of experience allowed me to travel to a faraway country with no worries.
What were you hoping to give? Did you have any expectations on if/what you might receive from the experience?
I personally arrived very open-minded, which is something that I would recommend future volunteers do. This allowed me to focus on what I could give my students according to what they need, and not what I want. I was really hoping I would have the chance to expose my students to new things and teach them a little bit about the world outside their small country. I wanted them to develop passion and curiosity to continue learning new things, even after I’m done with my program.
How did your experience meet with your expectations?
Being able to teach my own class gave me a lot of freedom. My ideas were welcomed and I got all the support I needed. I feel like I got more from this experience than I ever expected. No volunteer can change the world by doing a few days or even months of volunteer work, but the impact this leaves on the local community, and the fact that there are thousands of volunteers, each one leaving a little bit of magic- that is just priceless!
What would you tell others who are considering a volunteer service trip? AND how can they get more information?
I would encourage those doing a service trip abroad to do research beforehand to make sure that the company or organization they choose is exactly what they say they are, and that they are working towards sustainability in the communities that they work in. I would also recommend that people take some time to think about what they would like to be doing for either a short term or long term volunteer trip, since they will be spending a fair amount of time doing this activity and it should interest them!