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Having a Positive Impact When You Travel

Having a positive impact when you travel.

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We’ve written several times about how Kathryn did medical volunteering in Cambodia every year from 2009-2014. She hopes to do it again when our daughter is a little older. Usually she went for around a month. The volunteering experience was a lifelong dream for her. It hasn’t been without it’s challenges – finding an appropriate organization to work with for 1 month periods was tough, and there can be quite a lot of frustration. For example, trying to teach hygiene such as basic handwashing in organizations where soap may not be available in the restrooms! However, without a doubt it’s been lifechanging. She has met some awesome people, and even though it’s only 1 month a year, a week wouldn’t go by when it doesn’t impact her life at home. She and her family have also sponsored several Cambodian students through their college education, including Kathryn sponsoring a medical student. Her parents have ended up visiting Cambodia and meeting some of the locals she has met through volunteering. In fact her parents have made some relationships that are very important to them through Kathryn’s volunteering.

Back at home, she has the opportunity to Skype and email with people back in Cambodia e.g., when they need advice or need to talk about a decision they’re facing in their lives. She also meets up with other people she has volunteered with when she is back at home.

You can see how all of this has been a really enriching travel experience. Don’t we all hope that we keep feeling the effects of our travels when we return home?

What do you need to do if you want to volunteer overseas?

– Identify the time frame you can commit
– Think about what skills you have to offer
– Have realistic expectations that there may be some frustrations involved e.g., with local bureaucracy
– Work on finding an organization you want work with, before you leave. For example, click here to find out how to volunteer with UNICEF
– Expect that paying your own costs is probably the right thing to do. Kathryn pays her own costs in Cambodia. These costs may or may not be tax deductible for you, and may depend on the type of organization you’re working with and if that organized is a registered charity in your tax home country.
– Talk to others who have volunteered in the country you wish to volunteer in. Find out their experiences and their hints and what to expect, do’s and don’ts.

This post is in partnership with UNICEF, but words and opinions are our own.

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