Volunteering Abroad.


Volunteering Abroad.

One of the greatest aspects of travel is connecting with people and gaining a better understanding of how people in different countries around the world live. I always seem to find that as different as we all may be, essentially we are all the same.

A little kid from the Himba tribe in Namibia

That being said, I’ve always had this overwhelming desire to help people while traveling. Still, I’ve never been entirely sure what help I could offer. I never stayed at a destination very long, and I didn’t see how in my short stay, I could make an impact on someone’s life.

Eventually, I put the idea of volunteering abroad to the side and sought to really make connections to any people I encountered while traveling. Then, I chose to bring back my stories to tell the students in my classes in an effort to open their minds to the world; I began to see this as my way to make an impact. Still, it wasn’t always enough, I wanted to do something more.

I began to support companies that give back to the people where they are located, whether it was by hiring local guides, employing the people of a country in good working conditions, or donating something those people actually needed. But, even this can be difficult because you can’t always be sure where the money is going.

A little girl from the Karen tribe in Northern Thailand

So this summer, I have decided it is time for me to have my first experience volunteering abroad, and I think it’s important for me to be able to understand it first-hand. I know that there are a lot of people who don’t believe in it, but I’m not sure how I feel. Either way, I am willing to give it a shot. The opportunity seemed to find me, and that makes me believe that it’s an experience I am meant to have.

I realize that I can’t change the world by volunteering abroad, but as a teacher, I also know that having an impact on one life can change one person’s world. Two weeks isn’t long enough, and I know I won’t be able to eliminate the world’s problems, but I’d like to think I can help in some way.


In June, and into July, I’ll be heading to India before the Mongol Rally and volunteering with Leave UR Mark in Bangalore. My volunteer program will be a way for me to immerse myself in the culture and city, and I will be working with street children while I am there. For me, this is the perfect opportunity because I have been teaching for seven years, and I’m looking forward to working with kids in a different country, and in an environment other than teaching in the traditional sense.

What I love about Leave UR Mark is that it’s all about helping people from around the world work on developing themselves through their careers, while also supporting local initiatives in Bangalore. The company itself is located in the city, and all volunteer and work opportunities occur in the direct vicinity. One of my favorite aspects is that instead of spending money on brochures or a fancy website, all money goes to help support the volunteers and programs.

India has been very high on my list of places to go for as long as I can remember, and I am so excited to see it this way. I think the experience will be even more special because I’ll really be able to connect with a community and a city for an extended period of time.

I have no idea what volunteering abroad will be like, but I’m looking forward to every step of the experience. I know, it will be vastly different from my traveling experiences so far, but I cannot wait to see what India has in store for me.

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Comments (25)

  1. Kayla

    I love reading about others volunteer travel trips. It is so inspiring and has encouraged me to to the same. I will be going to Israel/Palestine with Operation Groundswell this summer. I cannot wait to here about your experience in India and with your organization. Maybe it will something I will look into for next summer.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks for letting me know about this program! I’m loving their site. I’d love to know more about your experience when you return. 🙂

  2. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    Hi Erin, the best of luck with volunteering, it sounds really interesting. Like many I have always considered what would be the best way to help others who are less fortunate and similarly have always felt like I am not doing enough. Volunteering is something I definitely want to consider at some point, although further research is required to ensure that I would actually be “helping” as opposed to hindering or seeking selfish gratification.

    I look forward to reading about your experiences 🙂

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks so much, Lisa! It’s very difficult to find the right program. Leave UR Mark found its way to me, and I like a lot of what they are doing, especially the affordability. I am very excited to see the world in a whole new way. 🙂

  3. Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    What an incredible experience you will have. And I agree, even touching one life is well worth our effort. Best of luck, Erin!

  4. Amanda

    You are going to have the most life-changing experiences! That program looks really good. I did some volunteering through an organisation called Projects Abroad – http://www.projects-abroad.co.uk/ They’re really good in terms of what you can involved in. Like you I knew I wanted to something to help others, but I’m no good medically, or with teaching, no experience building anything. But with these guys you can do everything from teaching and healthcare to working in local law and human rights, coaching soccer teams or assisting local businesses. I went into their journalism program and volunteered at a local newspaper in Ghana. It’s definitely eye-opening! 🙂

    1. The World Wanderer

      Working in a journalism program and at a local newspaper sounds like a fantastic way to volunteer and a whole new way to understand the place you are visiting. I am definitely going to look into the program. So great to hear about successful volunteer programs. 🙂

  5. @mrsoaroundworld

    Love this idea Erin. Mr O has done quite a few of these and I would like to do one in the future!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks! I’m really looking forward to the experience, Ana!

  6. Lance | Trips By Lance

    This is great that you have an opportunity to make a difference while experiencing India. You have such a busy summer planned.

    1. The World Wanderer

      It’s an insane summer! I am very grateful for my time off from work that allows me to have it.

  7. The Travel Sisters

    Hi Erin, sounds like it will be a great experience to volunteer and learn about India. We would be open to volunteering if we could find an appropriate program as well. Looking forward to reading your posts about your experience!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks! It’s nice to find one I feel good about after years of looking. I cannot wait for the experience. 🙂

  8. Traveling Ted

    That is cool you are doing this before the Mongol Rally. You have two different but amazing experiences back-to-back. Working with children in India should be very rewarding.

    1. The World Wanderer

      It’s going to be an interesting summer, no doubt about that! I cannot wait!


    tthats a super story and all the best ! 🙂

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thank you so much! I’m very excited. 🙂

  10. Leah

    This is awesome, and I can’t agree with you more. I’ve looked into volunteering abroad with kids, but it’s been difficult to find something that can be done in short periods of times. Also, there’s always someone with their hands out wanting you to pay them to let you volunteer. I’m happy you found a good organization, and I look forward to following this journey of yours.

    God speed.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Yes, that’s the hardest part. I’ve always looked into teaching programs and the prices are insane. There is a fee for Leave UR Mark, but it is payment toward accommodations and two meals a day. For what you are getting, it’s very reasonable. They are just taking the money to pay staff, housing, and meals. I also love that everything is in Bangalore. Makes me trust the program. 🙂

  11. Claire

    Volunteering in Ghana was probably the best 2 months of my entire life. I’m sure it will be amazing for you too!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Claire! Ghana sounds amazing…I’m really looking forward to my experience.

  12. Adrienne @ AdrienneAway

    I regret that I never volunteered abroad when I was younger and single. Have an amazing time and good luck!

  13. Hello from India! | The World Wanderer

    […] getting my certification, I will head south to work with Leave UR Mark, which is what I planned on doing last summer. I will stay there until the middle of December and […]

  14. Volunteering with Leave UR Mark: What I Learned | The World Wanderer

    […] of travel’s most controversial topics seems to be voluntourism. The idea of volunteering abroad isn’t always seen as being a good thing, and that’s because there are many unreliable […]

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