How volunteering abroad can boost your wellbeing
Volunteering abroad is a powerful two-way exchange of culture, growth and transformation. On the one hand, it empowers volunteers to make a positive impact in communities in need, while on the other, it enables you to grow and develop on a personal level.
Recent research shows that people who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health and wellbeing. When we help others, we tend to experience what researchers call a “warm glow”, increase our sense of social connection, build professional skills and try out leadership opportunities.
International Volunteer HQ exists to facilitate these kinds of life-enriching travel experiences and make them accessible to everyone. Our volunteer programs encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, open your mind to new ways of thinking and immerse yourself in different cultures - all whilst giving back to worthy causes. We ensure our volunteer programs are as affordable as possible to enable people from all walks of life to make a difference when they travel.
For those wondering Why should I volunteer abroad? it’s important to consider that while you set out to make a difference in a community abroad, your experience is sure to have a powerful impact on your own life too. We often talk about the positive impact IVHQers have on the people, places and communities they volunteer within - but how does the act of serving others impact volunteers themselves?
Find out how volunteering abroad has changed the mindset of past IVHQ volunteers below!
New ways of thinking
- 94% of volunteers said the experience had challenged them to think differently about how they understand the world.
- 67% strongly agreed that they had developed a greater sense of empathy for people from cultures that were different to their own.
- 90% volunteers in the survey strongly agreed that they are now more willing to invite and accept someone else’s perspective.
- 9 out of 10 volunteers said that they were more adaptable and open minded as a result of their experience, and that it was now easier and more natural for them to communicate with people from different backgrounds. We found that people identified this as a new attribute which they had picked up as a result of their experience.
- Two thirds of volunteers strongly agreed that they learned more about themselves than they thought they would.
My experience in Cartagena changed my life. My perspective on life is completely altered for the better. I believe everyone should take the opportunity to force themselves into a strange place, it allows you to grow in ways you couldn’t even imagine.
Our research also showed that volunteering abroad can boost aspirations and raise the expectations that people have of themselves and what they want experience and achieve in life.
- 47% of respondents strongly agreed that volunteering had made them more ambitious than before, and nearly everyone said that their motivation for travel and experiencing new cultures had increased.
- 60% of volunteers used their volunteering experience to explore a potential career field, and a further 40% strongly agreed with a statement that volunteering had positively impacted their career aspirations.
- Volunteering abroad also makes people increase the expectations they have of how their employers behave.
- 86% of those we surveyed said that their experience had made them more inclined to choose an employer with clearly defined values and a social purpose beyond simply turning a profit.
- 90% of people surveyed were now more inclined to be of service in their home community as a result of their IVHQ experience.
Volunteering made me realize that traveling and doing something meaningful can go hand in hand. I now feel that working internationally is not out of the question. My dreams now are even bigger and I can’t wait to have more adventures like my Bali experience!
Improved skills and abilities
One the most encouraging findings of our research was to do with the impact that a volunteering abroad experience has on an individual’s skills and abilities.
- 90% of respondents said that their communications skills had improved
- Volunteering abroad had a positive impact on teamwork abilities, with nearly 40% strongly agreeing that they had improved in this area.
- A person’s capacity for innovation is also improved through volunteering abroad, with 80% of respondents agreeing that their ability to be creative and think ‘outside the box’ had improved, while the same percentage also said that that they had become a more confident leader as a result of their experience.
- Most people said that there were moments in during their experience that they felt challenged and out of their comfort zone, but over 90% of respondents also said that volunteering abroad had made them more resilient and able to deal with whatever challenges life throws at them.
- 8 out of 10 IVHQ volunteers believed that their sense of perspective had improved, and that the experience and taught them to not “sweat the small stuff” as much as they did previously.
I feel that I grew so much as a person even though I was only there for a short time. There is something about traveling and going out of your comfort zone that changes you in a way you could not do at home.
Making an impact
It’s no secret that volunteering abroad will have an impact on you and the scale of this impact is something that should be acknowledged and celebrated. Volunteers travel abroad to make a contribution to important community projects and through the two-way exchange of ideas, perspectives and skills, often discover profound and lasting developments in their lives. These developments are often in skill and competency areas that are critical for any study area or career path.
Through immersion in a foreign community as an international volunteer, you’re challenged to open your mind, to leave your comfort zones and think differently about the world and your place in it. Our community of IVHQers are always sharing stories with us about how their experience enabled them to explore a potential study or career path, taught them new skills, or radically changed their aspirations. Many volunteers tell us that volunteering abroad helped to shape the attributes, attitude and global understanding that will set them up for life.
At IVHQ, we’re proud to enable socially and environmentally-conscious travelers to have a meaningful impact and to expand their skills and horizons, and we’re constantly looking for ways that we can make our programs more impactful for both local communities and for volunteers. To learn more about the global impact that IVHQ and our volunteers are having, check out our Impact page.