“That was the experience of a lifetime!” “I want to go back.” “It was amazing!”
These are sentiments often heard when our travelers discuss their volunteer vacations.
Why? Because giving back feels good — and once the volunteer bug latches on, it nudges people to view the world differently and continue helping others. The dilemma some of our travelers face is how to keep that spirit alive after coming home.
If that’s something you’ve been struggling with, here are five ways to keep giving back after returning from a volunteer vacation:
1. Volunteer with organizations that give you people-to-people contact
Many of our international volunteers say that personal contact is one of the highlights of their trip — so why not keep that trend going by volunteering with an organization that allows you to connect with people?
To find local volunteering opportunities, check out a website like VolunteerMatch, or simply get in touch with your favorite organization. You’re sure to find a cause you’d like to back and a population you’d like to work with.
2. Get involved in your neighborhood
Every neighborhood has an association; consider joining yours. You can help to beautify your surroundings through neighborhood fundraisers, or keep it safe by participating in a crime watch program.
Think back to your volunteer experience and that warm feeling you had while helping to build homes in a village — then try to apply that to your own environment.
Neighborhood improvements can be as small as repainting public fencing, or as ambitious as raising funds to install safer playground equipment at a nearby park. Just remember: A thriving and well-cared-for community produces happy and caring people.
3. Share your volunteer experience
Your local elementary, middle, or high schools are a window into the youth of your hometown. Offer to give a special talk about your volunteer trip to a local school — even better if you know a student there. Or hold an event at your local community center to promote volunteerism.
Create an image-filled presentation to accompany your story. Talk about the life-changing effect your volunteer vacation had on you. With you as a role model, local children might be inspired to make a difference in the world.
4. Support local businesses
When you make purchases at the grassroots level, you support the economy of your neighborhood, which results in job growth and longevity. Buying locally also gives people choices that are more personal and unique than faceless box stores.
Support your neighbors and community; give back by shopping locally.
5. Stay in touch with your international friends
After you leave your destination, lives still move forward for the people you met — as does their desire to continue their relationship with you.
It can be easy to forget the daily interactions you had during your trip — so keep those connections strong by exchanging photos, emails, and letters with those who touched you deeply.
Volunteering responsibly means you were part of an ongoing process, and maintaining these ties allows you to see the results of your work. You may even find yourself contributing to another project by donating money or sponsoring a child’s education in the town where you spent time.
Maintain the momentum of your volunteer vacation by applying those newfound feelings of reciprocity to even more experiences that aid the lives of others.
What are some other ways you can give back?