Discover the feelings of travellers and volunteers from the United States, Belgium and Vietnam when participating in community activities in Vietnam, Malaysia and Korea.
SCOTT ELLIS, 31, BELGIUM
Through workaway.info, I found interesting projects where I could be useful. I paid only 20USD for me and my partner for 1 year of registration. And we’ve done volunteering in Malaysia on an organic farm and another in South Korea in an exchange language café. Our job was to talk English with locals.
My experience in Malaysia wasn’t good because the manager was annoying. And most of all, I was expecting to be learning some stuff. But I spent 10 days cutting bamboo and my partner spent 10 days on her knees taking out all the weeds. My experience in South Korea was, in contradiction, very good. I had a good time talking with local people. They were so nice and showed me around. And by that way I now know more about their local culture and lifestyle.
For both of the volunteering experiences, we had free food and free accommodation. Most of the places offer that (in exchange for 4-5 hours of work). But some places don’t offer anything and people have to pay for everything.
Yes, for some people, they are willing to pay a lot of money to join a trip. And bad people can use this good will to make profit. I hardly join such kind of trips because I don’t like the idea of making profit on the back of poor people or kind-hearted tourists.
But for me as I travelled 43 months, it’s just a break during travelling. For me my travel wasn’t holidays, but it was a way of life.
TRAN DUC BAO, 21, VIETNAM
I volunteer every year because when I attended a religions school in Boston, there were always volunteer trips for students. We also distributed food to the poor and homeless people and in our spare time we went around exploring the destination. It was a bit interesting but I did not feel very excited about these trips.
But the trip to Lo Lo Chai (Ha Giang Province) in July was the first tour I booked myself. And indeed, the trip was so great that it brought me unforgettable feelings. Probably because we were all Vietnamese, so I felt a sense of empathy and I deeply connected with the people here. And that made me more inspired to do volunteer work and help people in Lo Lo Chai.
My job was teaching English to young children, and every month there is a volunteer groups that comes here to do this work periodically. I had the chance to meet local people and stayed at a homestay, and walking a lot helped me to be familiar with the streets. At a cost of just over VND 1.6 million for a trip of 2 days 3 nights, it is also very cheap and worth your money compared to what I had experienced here.
Next summer I am planning to attend a longer volunteer program for about two weeks to a month, teaching in Lao Cai Province. Learning, connecting and giving is the best way to make me feel life is more meaningful and help me grow.
DIYA HEBLE, 22, UNITED STATE
I’ve never had a volunteering experience like this before. It was my first time volunteering in this capacity outside of my home country. I worked on business development with a partner organisation called Hoa Ban Plus, supporting a group of disadvantaged women in a rural district called Mai Chau. I was very excited to help them develop their own handicrafts so that they can earn their living and be financially independent. I was able to watch with my own eyes how our hands can help other people’s life, how we can play a little role in the journey to make an unfortunate persons’ future brighter.
Since that moment, I have felt so engaged with volunteer work that I decided to contribute to Volunteer For Education in any way I could by being an intern. During the time of my internship at this organisation, my main responsibility was to encourage more foreigners/expats to partake in the volunteer programs. So I helped with a lot of marketing efforts, formed partnerships with other organisations/businesses, and did some photography for content creation. I hope more and more people can partake in such meaningful trips to help people in need.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time outside of the office as well, in Hanoi. I had never been to Vietnam before, and I love travelling, so it was a pleasure to gain an understanding of Vietnamese culture and experience a different lifestyle.
ALEX PIKE, 26, UNITED STATES
I heard about “All Hands” from a friend that I met when I was travelling in Vietnam. I applied to work in Nepal while I was in Thailand.
We would go to a beneficiary’s property and help them to clear out rubble and remains of their old homes so that we could have a clean area for building a new house. I was on site for 6 weeks during March and April of 2016. We slept in dormitories for free and all of the meals were included on days that we worked. We worked from early morning until mid-afternoon. When we got back to base, we could relax, swim in the river, and hang out with each other.
When I finished my 6 weeks, I went trekking for 6 weeks to Mount Everest and some other breath-taking mountains. Nepal is an amazing country. I can’t wait to go back someday. I’d love to do the exact same thing again!
I loved volunteering. I made so many great friends and it felt great being able to help people every day. Handing over a new home to people in need is an amazing feeling. I didn’t have a lot of money to share, but I did have time, youthful energy, and positivity, and I think that sometimes, that’s the best thing to share anyways.
I think everybody can benefit from volunteering. I also got a lot stronger and gained some leadership skills. So, while I was helping others, I was able to grow as well.