To be or not to be a long term volunteer…

Volunteering helps you to meet people from everywhere. It gives you a chance to build strong relationship that can have a big impact on your life. Understanding different environments, cultures helps you to see life from different perspective.

Development volunteer in India

Long term volunteer?

A few months ago I arrived back to Europe from my social/educational volunteer project which was in India. Many people and friends of mine were asking about my experiences. I got a few request to visit some summer camps, schools and NGOs to talk about my story. As I was preparing for these events, I collected my ticket and prospects from my journey and I chose several pictures I wanted to show to my audience. In this process, there were a few things that were always on my mind: What can I tell them? Why is it good to be a long therm volunteer in India?

My motto is: ‘Give and get!’. I will try to remember and to write down what I was giving and what I got. First of all, I would like to talk about my motivation: one of the most important things to figure out before jumping in a Fighting with the Poor program or Development Volunteer Program is your motivation. Here was mine: 

1.To learn English (I’m an IT guy, I had basic knowledge of English, but I never had time to learn it.) 

2.Travel and live abroad (my hobby is traveling, I love to visit different countries and to see how people are living with my own eyes)

3.Volunteer where I can (a few years ago I was working in an NGO; we had many different events and projects, where I was organizing and volunteering as well, but I had the feeling that this was not enough for me.)

Hello Norway!

The first day in Norway was really strange for me with a lot of new people. Finding or agreeing on a job for the next 9-12 months! I chose to get involved in the clothes collection business. I moved to Denmark and started to work in storage with my Czech teammate, Robert. In the beginning, it was really hard to cope with the work physically, and in the end, it was hard mentally. Our task was to empty the clothes collection vans at the end of the day.

Time after time we were faster, more precise and we created some friendships as well. On the internet, we were connected with our friends and our group, but the first big event was when we went back to our school for the midway meeting. We were so happy to see the others and to feel that “OMG half of the work time is done”. For the rest of the months we went back to Denmark in a good mood and with a strong motivation.

Study

The next big step was the study period. I went back to Norway feeling very satisfied. I reached my small goals. My English developed a lot, I became stronger physically and mentally, and we also managed to raise a large amount of money. It was a pleasure to get together with the team. Of course sometimes it was hard to discuss all the issues that were coming up inside the team, but at the end of the day we were all fine. I have had time and the mood to study so I did.  I love to cook, so I got the responsibility for the kitchen and the shopping, I was happy with it.

For a few months I was working in the site-finding team, which was a really nice time in my life. With my colleague, we jumped into the car and we went around in Norway. Our task was to find new spots for new clothes collection containers. 

In the study period we had a lot of fun!

Travel in India

We went for investigation trips: one of them was in Turkey, Georgia and Armenia, where I learned a lot about traveling like a backpacker in a small group; the other one was in Iceland, where I was hitch-hiking with my best friend in the program. In the summer, we went together with the team in Denmark to visit our “mother school”. There we participated in the Summer Theater. At the end of our study period we went for some hikes in Norway and at that time we became a stronger group. 

In the previous periods there are questions that can pop up at times: Why am I here? Why is it a good idea for me to do this? …

Travel

Usually for these questions, one good answer is the travel period. In these three months of travel, we plan our path to get to the project, the starting point being the school. I went to Russia, Mongolia, China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka mainly overland. I have seen many incredible parts of Asia. The feeling of sitting on the Trans Siberian Express, being at the Everes Base Camp in Tibet, and having a bath with the elephants was incredible. But to travel and live like local, to eat on the street in China or travel 48 hours in Mongolia in a bus was an undescribable experience.

Travelin in India

Volunteer 

The next part of the program is the project period. I found myself in South India, in an educational project for girls in Tuticorin. The first period was not easy for us, because we had to settle down, get accustomed to the local style of living and find our place in the project. But from week to week we somehow managed. Our project leader was a great guy and helped us where he could. 

It was really nice to live and volunteer in India, to eat by hand like the locals, and ride a bike on the overcrowded streets. We had a house close to the Indian Ocean, a little far from our office. We went to work and back by bus. I was shopping on the street and I was enjoying it all. In our project we made promotion, we taught English, we held teacher trainings, we helped organize some events and we pitched in for the office work. 

Volunteer in India

Conclusion

The volunteer period passed and I got back to Europe. That was a cultural shock for me: “I can drink water from the tap”, “There are places and times to be in silence”, “People are running and always complaining about something…”

So let’s see the conclusion! What did I need to give? I gave my time, my knowledge and my work. What I got? I did not earn money, but I received many things what I could not change for money. Became stronger physically and mentally; I know myself better, I pushed my boundaries and I know I can be outside of my comfort zone and I’m able to enjoy that. I learned about culture and life. Developed my English, now I can understand if somebody is talking to me in English even if she/he is Indian. Lived and worked in Denmark, Norway and India; I feel that I can live abroad anywhere in the world if I wish to do so. I think in the six months spent in India, our work helped for the development of the project, so I reached my personal goals! 

How to be a happy volunteer and what it takes to be long term volunteer?

There are no recipes for how to feel good in this program, how to be a happy volunteer, but I will try to write down what helped me: preparation is really important; before starting the program it is a must to get as much information as you can; if you decide to enroll you need to find out your goals; what will give you satisfaction?; You must have long term and short term goals; You must be flexible, there are changes from time to time; there are problems and challenges arising every now and then, it is good to be able to make decisions and changes instead of complaining. You need to be open to receive the other cultures. You should learn about your own and other peoples needs, and what you must give up sometimes in order to succeed.

Based on my experiences, being a long term volunteer is a very rewarding experience! 

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BTP period – 3 months

Returning to school with heads and hands full of new knowledge and energy for Bringing it to the Public. Meeting with the team, showing, telling, exchanging experiences and making it common knowledge.

Producing articles, pamphlets, videos, presentations, exhibitions, speeches for debate forums, books and more. Studying further the curriculum in Fighting with The Poor, bringing the truth to the public. 

Going to different schools around Europe to spread the new knowledge in various creative ways – speeches, newspaper articles, lectures at universities and colleges, debates and other public events, exhibitions – leading to a better understanding and inspiring to take an action.

Passing the final exams in Fighting with The Poor. Using the last months together to conclude our future perspectives and possible ways of improving The Poor’s quality in life with humble ways of sharing knowledge.

Volunteer period – 6 months

The Project Work in Africa or India in cooperation with Humana People to People. In this period, you can work at:

  • Teacher training colleges
  • Educating teachers for rural areas
  • Vocational schools for young people
  • Schools for street children.Preschools
  • Sanitation and hygiene in rural areas
  • Tree planting campaigns
  • Raising funds for social projects by forming partnerships and selling second hand clothes and shoes
  • Stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS (following the program TCE/Total Control of the Epidemic)

Arriving at the project in Africa or India, having left behind a courageous journey where fundamental human capabilities have been turned around, refreshed and energised by knowing that things such as travelling can be done in a totally different way than the mainstream tourist travelling.

Ready for doing the work needed at the project, bringing plans and materials from the previous periods. Getting to know the people at the project, the vision and idea of the project and the many concrete tasks to be carried out.

Carrying out the tasks as defined within the necessities of the project and by the Project Leadership. Fighting shoulder to shoulder with The Poor: building preschools, starting Garden Farming, doing literacy campaigns, eradicating malaria, teaching about big issues of our time while working as a teacher at DNS, starting income-generating activities, working as a TCE Special Force in the fight against HIV/AIDS – as a few examples.

Studying and working with your Specialisation in Fighting with The Poor, finalising with a People’s Exam and a written thesis at the end of the period. Acquiring skills in information work: making interviews, taking notes and pictures, writing summaries and reports, recording videos.

Living together with the people at the project, being a good example of living a humble life while improving things with small means to make daily life better.

Travel period – 3 months

Living on the road, being on the move, finding means of transport and places to sleep, talking to people on the road, being curious to understand and know about the countries you are traveling through.

Making investigations, meeting people, visiting their workplaces, staying in their homes, understanding their problems, meeting their culture and values and sharing thoughts with them about the world and the future.

Telling people about your venture to a third world country, trying out bringing it to the public what you have so far experienced and learned. Putting up investigations on a higher level, asking tough questions to self and to the group, getting hold of more answers and putting up new questions.

Taking notes and pictures, writing reports and discussing the seen and the experienced.
Finding good ways of sticking together in the Trios and in the group as such during the travel period.

Study Period – 6 months

At this school, you will find that learning is not first and foremost about listening to the teacher.

The school’s Program consists of a range of intense and spirited activities, theoretical studies and experiences that constitute the sum of learning and life processes carried through by a group of people who for a considerable period of time share a Program with each other that demands cooperation and efforts, and which at the same time is sprinkled with elements that are inspiring and also quite out of the ordinary.

Thus, learning will also take place through communication, deliberations, through working out your plan for learning and sticking to it, and putting to use what you learned, the methods you used, the ideas you got from it and the results you harvested from the training.

You will train yourself in being adventurers and survivors, living and traveling under very humble conditions, not using much money and always finding a way out by ingenuity, being smart and sticking together with your teammates.