Traveling for Volunteer Work: One of the Most Transformative Student Experiences

Traveling for volunteer work is one of the best educational experiences that a student can have. As a volunteer, a student can see and make a positive impact on the world.

While it is true that it is more attractive to backpack across Asia to surf its beaches; or ride a train around Europe; and even hike the French or Swiss Alps—these touristy itineraries might never compare with the fulfillment of volunteer work.

Year after year, many senior high school and college students fly all the way to Africa, Asia, South America, and other parts of the globe to help disadvantaged children and youth. They visit these developing countries to participate in literacy and numeracy programs, medical missions, and other development projects.

Using Literacy, Science & Technology to Uplift People

Being a youth volunteer in a developing country is very similar to a disciple-making ministry in the sense that the poor students who receive help from these programs can be mentored so that they, too, can help others like them. With the cycle of help repeated over time, it will be replicated over and over resulting in improvements in literary and numeracy, possibly, for an entire generation.

Some student volunteers even bring donated computers and laptops, conduct basic computer lessons, and help poor communities access the internet. In many rural areas, access to information is very limited. By providing these areas a means to watch the news online, they also expand their awareness about a wider world around them. These technology tools are also used to communicate with government agencies, especially hospitals and health care offices so that far-flung communities can ask for assistance, especially during emergencies.

In very remote or isolated areas, students sometimes bring transistor radios with solar batteries. These simple radios also bring information as well as entertainment to many families who live far from city centers.

In Africa, for example, a stream of students also helped poor villages to construct simple water wells and install water tanks. In many places around that continent, access to water remains very difficult. But through the generosity of sponsors and the passionate commitment of student-volunteers, many people now have water to drink, and enough supplies of it to water their crops, wash clothes, and bathe.

In South America, students have also traveled to participate in high-impact development projects like those spearheaded by Habitat for Humanity. Using their time and energy to help build modest but decent homes for the poor, these young people see the joy and happiness of formerly homeless people being awarded their own house and lot.

There are also programs where agriculture, forestry, and agrotechnology students offer free training to under-served farmer communities. By doing so, they enable these villages to learn and leverage the latest scientific methods to produce more crops.

Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law

In countries with ongoing civil war or insurgency, one can also find volunteer law students who work hand-in-hand with human rights activists. It is common for them to engage in paralegal work and information campaigns about human rights and international humanitarian law.

Medical Students Helping the Sick and Wounded

A few groups of medical students can also be found doing volunteer paramedical work and health-related missions in rural countrysides. In coordination with the host country and international organizations like the Red Cross, these medical students assist doctors in vaccination programs, free medical-dental checkups, and even on-site emergency surgeries.

Why Volunteer?


Students who volunteer for development programs in poor countries are a very special group of people. They spend their time, energy, knowledge, and skills to help others who are desperate for assistance. In the process students who do these kinds of work expand their own understanding of the world. They are no longer confined to books and to the relatively comfortable confines of their university or college.

As volunteers, their social awareness deepens exponentially as they see the stark realities in poor nations around the world. This helps them develop empathy and the will to take action to help hundreds of kids and youth who are desperate for help and attention.

During volunteer work, they also get trained in leadership and management. They are allowed to plan, manage, and execute certain tasks that directly impact a development program or initiative related to the giving of aid to people in need.

They develop a higher appreciation for civil duty, as they understand their role in helping others and make sacrifices along the way. As they witness the hardships of other people in poor countries, they go home with gratitude in their hearts for all the advantages they enjoy that others do not have. Even as they get to travel and have adventures in exotic locations and beautiful places around the world, these youth volunteers also get to develop their spiritual and philosophical identities. They realize that in many of these places that they have come to extend help, they too received help in the form of a life lesson, a smile of a child, or a word of thanks from the people they meet.

When students volunteer to do good works for other people, they are the ones who are truly blessed by the transformative experience.

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