Joining a responsible volunteer project is an incredible way to create sustainable impacts across our global community. However, volunteering is not just about the projects – it is about the people, the landscapes, the adventures, and the richness of cultural exchange.
We believe in the power of volunteering to transform both communities and volunteers, shaping lives for the better. In this post, we are exploring five life-changing benefits of volunteering for you – the volunteer!
1. Unforgettable Experiences
Life-changing experiences often exist outside the walls of our comfort zones. It takes us going beyond what is familiar and comfortable to experience real change. We believe that volunteering is one of the most impactful adventures you can embark on!
Volunteering takes you beyond the surface level of travel. Joining a project immerses you in a new environment, community, and culture. It is an adventure that is as challenging as it is rewarding. Volunteering creates some of the most incredible travel memories.
Experiencing life goes beyond watching and wondering – it is about engaging, adventuring, and exploring. It is about all the people you meet and the memories you make along the way. From rewarding moments on project sites to weekends exploring with fellow volunteers, volunteering is an incredible way to experience life in its fullness. We encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and see what life has to offer!
2. Greater Self-Understanding
New experiences build character. When we boldly step into a foreign environment, we are bound to learn things about ourselves we never knew before. Volunteering is a particularly remarkable way to develop greater self-understanding.
In his book, Gap Years: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs, Joseph O’Shea explores the benefits of volunteering abroad on a large group of individuals who dedicated a year of their life to do so. Through personal interviews and academic research, his findings are clear: volunteering changes you for the better.
One of the most impactful and universal ways volunteers experienced change was in their understanding of themselves (O’Shea, 2014). Leaving the familiarity of home and entering a new culture fostered creative thinking in the volunteers. Volunteers began to explore what issues mattered to them and how they identified with the world around them. They began to question what they were passionate about and how they could use these passions for good. Volunteering transforms you into a more selfless, tolerant, and curious person – which is not only a gift to you, but everyone around you!
3. Improved Mental and Physical Health
We all know the impact that being kind can have on the people around us. When a friend is hurting, our first instinct is to rush to comfort them. When we hear about a tragedy within our community, we band together to provide support. Extending empathy is often one of the biggest motivations to join a volunteer project. Much like we care for our loved ones, we seek to support our global community when it is hurting. However, the benefits of extending empathy are not limited to others – they can have a profound impact on your health as well!
As explored in the article Why Giving Is Good for Your Health, from the Cleveland Clinic and in the research paper Altruism, Happiness, and Health by Stephen G. Post, giving back has an array of positive benefits for our mental and physical health. Evidence has shown that exercising empathy secretes “feel good” hormones in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). Commonly referred to as a “helper’s high,” volunteering is an addictive activity that benefits both you and others. Studies have further shown that volunteering is associated with decreased stress-levels, lowered blood pressure, and greater overall happiness each day (Post, 2005). If you join a volunteer project, your body, mind, and community will thank you!
4. Diversity and Range in Professional Goals
Volunteering is an impressive accomplishment to put on your CV. However, the professional benefits of volunteering go beyond future employability. Volunteering abroad can boost career satisfaction in the future.
As David Epstein highlights in his best-seller, Range, entering new learning environments and exploring a wide range of interests results in increased satisfaction in future careers (Epstein, 2019). Volunteering takes previous knowledge about a given industry and puts it into a completely new perspective.
When you give your time to a volunteer project, you have incredible opportunities to exchange knowledge with local staff. This cultural exchange between locals and volunteers is invaluable, helping both parties to explore their work with new insight and skills. Whether you are eagerly pursuing a specific career path or still exploring where your passions lie, volunteering is an incredible opportunity to develop a new perspective on your professional goals!
5. Making an Impact
Above all, volunteering creates global citizens. When a diverse group of individuals comes together to achieve a common goal, the impacts are astounding. One person may not be able to eradicate long-standing global issues like climate change or malnutrition. Yet, volunteering abroad creates opportunities for conversations among cultures to come together to explore long-term and sustainable solutions.
Perhaps one of the most impactful benefits of volunteering is the resulting ability to see the world from a new perspective. Volunteering helps us to reframe our thinking around some of the challenging issues the world is facing. Joining a project is only the start. The people you meet, the experiences you have, the things you learn – these all carry into your life afterward and help shape you into a global citizen.
Becoming a global citizen changes the people around you for the better. As you approach life with more empathy, understanding, and curiosity, finding solutions to issues in your community becomes achievable. In your own way, you can make the world a better place. Volunteering is a beautiful place to start that journey.
This post is by no means comprehensive. There are so many more life-changing benefits of volunteering – we have barely scratched the surface. Volunteering is at the heart of what we do at African Impact, and we firmly believe in its ability to change the lives of everyone involved.
Our mission is to provide the highest quality volunteer experiences that create sustainable impacts for communities in Africa – and we would love for you to join us!
Click here to view all the volunteer projects we offer.
O’Shea, J (2014). Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in the Ways the World Needs. Baltimore, Maryland: John’s Hopkins University Press.
Cleveland Clinic (2020). Why Giving is Good for Your Health. From https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/
Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, Happiness and Health: It’s Good to be Good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12 (No.2), 66-77
Epstein, D (2019). Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Penguin Publishing Group.