Six inspirational reasons why you should volunteer in Africa

By Pippa Thompson

Traveling abroad to be a volunteer in Africa is guaranteed to leave its mark on the person taking part in the experience and the community they go out to help. It’s an idea many people have, but few follow up on. That is why I’ve compiled a list of six amazing reasons as to why you have to try volunteering, in the hope I will inspire some of you to make the journey to this beautiful, yet struggling continent.

Build Your Confidence Through Volunteering
A young man once came out to volunteer with us, he was dedicated, passionate about helping others, but he was one of the most shy people I have ever met. He would hardly speak and when he did spoke timidly and quietly. The only input you’d get out of him is if you asked him a direct question. This was in the beginning at least. Once we got into the work, the focus was on helping others and getting important jobs done. There was no time for him to be nervous about asking questions and without realising it he began to emerge from his shell.

The gratitude he received from the locals for his help sped up this process and by the end of his time with us he was like a different person. The self-confidence he had gained was truly inspiring. He learned that hiding away wasn’t going to help anyone, so he didn’t. Since returning home he’s remained confident and outgoing. Volunteering gave him the self-worth he needed to be the best he could.

Learn New Skills
Catriona Saker concisely sums up her experience of volunteering in Africa – “I am truly a different person to that girl who stepped off the plane on day one. I have learned a lot of life skills.”

Being part of a volunteer team allows you to learn more that you ever thought possible. From learning patience and bi-lingual and cultural communication, to organisation, planning and physical labor skills – volunteering in countries like Malawi and Ghana offer the volunteers the chance to learn a vast array of priceless new skills.

The focus and determination you need to complete the work in these communities is something you could never really learn elsewhere. Volunteers become self-disciplined and motivated. If you don’t do the work the work doesn’t get done – nobody forces you to be there, you have to learn to be your own driving force if you want to help others.

Experience New Things
One of the best things about these volunteer projects is that, while they might be set in some of the poorest countries in the world, they aren’t lacking in cultural and exploration opportunities. As a volunteer you soon become one with the community in which you are working, learning all about their culture and heritage. Be part of rituals, events and ceremonies, all amazing experiences unique to this part of the world.

Many African nations are also home to incredible natural wonders, parks, lakes and wildlife, so for all of you adventures out there, taking a trip to help those in need might also help you see things you’ve always dreamed of. For example, the country I work in most, Malawi, features the beautiful Liwonde National Park, known for its stunning scenery and having one of the highest density elephant and hippo populations in Africa.

Volunteer in Africa And Make A Difference
Volunteering doesn’t just impact your life, it has a profound effect on the communities you are there to help. It doesn’t matter whether you are there to teach young children, construct homes or care for the sick, if you weren’t there, nobody else would be. This means the presence of every individual volunteer impacts the lives of the people they meet. In communities with no money, where they struggle to survive on a daily basis, you are making their entire life better.

Recent Naturally Africa Volunteer Orhun Koksal tries to explain the feeling of making a real difference: “After working for almost a week, digging, hammering, mudding etc., when the house is completed, looking at what you have created and seeing how happy the people who will actually live in that house are cannot be explained with words.”

Gain A New Perspective Of Life
We often take the luxuries and opportunities we have in the western world for granted, never thinking twice about a life that many others will never experience. If nothing else, volunteering in Africa will show you just how good you have it. It is one thing seeing struggling African nations on the news or annual charity TV shows, but to actually experience it will be something you will never forget.

In society today, a meaning to life can be lost in the 9-5 work life, and often money becomes the most important part of life. If you ask somebody who has volunteered in Africa how it changed their perspective on life, they would struggle to put it into words. To be part of the struggle and the pain, yet see the happiness and joy even the simplest things bring, will change the way you see the world forever.

Help Those That Cannot Help Themselves
Famine, poverty, disease, these are all things that shouldn’t still be wide-spread problems, but they are. The communities you would be helping are filled with people without the knowledge, skills or resources to help themselves, but with your help, they can. Helping children of these communities allows them to learn and grow into people who can be a part of the solution. Helping with health care systems helps them learn how to look after their communities. Our volunteers recently built a makeshift ambulance for one of the communities we help, now they can transport their sick to the city for hospital care.

A Final Word 
Paid voluntourism is something that has received a lot of bad press in recent years, primarily due to charities pocketing cash instead of passing proceeds on to those who truly need it. When volunteering abroad, check the reputation of the organisation, read reviews and testimonials of their work and try to learn as much as you can before hand. Without genuine charities, struggling communities and causes would never receive the help they desperately need. The work of volunteers in these countries is a vital part of giving them, as well as future generations, a better life.

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About the author
Marc Crouch, the founder and coordinator of Naturally Africa Volunteers, has many years of experience helping communities in some of the poorest nations of Earth. After   experiencing the positive effects volunteering has on people first-hand, Marc wants to share why he thinks everybody should make the journey to help others.

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