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Ten Reasons Why International Volunteering Will Help You Get Ahead

11 November 2010 at 12:17 pm
Staff Reporter
Opinion | There are plenty of options in the world of ‘voluntourism’, as it is often called, that can have a profound impact on a young volunteers life. Pro Bono Australia journalist, Ryan Witcombe writes about his year of volunteering in developing countries.

Staff Reporter | 11 November 2010 at 12:17 pm


Ten Reasons Why International Volunteering Will Help You Get Ahead
11 November 2010 at 12:17 pm

There are plenty of options in the world of ‘voluntourism’, as it is often called, that can have a profound impact on a young volunteers life. Pro Bono Australia journalist, Ryan Witcombe writes about his year of volunteering in developing countries.

In 2005 I did something that had a profound impact on my life – something that more and more Australians are choosing to do. I took a year off from my university studies and volunteered in the developing world.

After two years at university I felt my motivation was waning and I felt I needed to get some direction in my life. I was studying international relations and was passionate about social justice and issues facing the developing world – but I felt that I really needed some hands-on experience. I decided to head overseas and volunteer in a couple of developing countries.

Breakfast at the Brighter Futures Children's Home, Nepal 2005.  Photo: Ryan Witcombe

There are plenty of options in the world of ‘voluntourism’ as it is often called, but there is a big difference between organisations that follow best practice and are serious about making lasting change in the developing world, and other operators who are more interested in generating revenue.

After a great deal of research, I settled on Global Volunteer Network – an organisation established in New Zealand by Colin Salisbury in 2001. GVN is an organisation passionate about working with local partner organisations, and this idea of ‘local solutions to local problems’ was something I was drawn to. They are also an organisation which offers a high level of support to volunteers and plenty of resources, something that made me comfortable in choosing GVN. To date GVN has placed over 13,000 volunteers in project in 29 countries.

I spent three months in Nepal through GVN, volunteering with local partner organisation Volunteer Services Nepal. I lived in a small village outside of Kathmandu and volunteered at the Brighter Future’s Children’s Home, a home for orphaned and abandoned children. I was a long way outside my comfort zone – living with a family that spoke no English, in a village with just one water source (the local tap). I learnt valuable lessons about the lives of people in rural Nepal, and spending three months with the children and BFCH was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

Taking a break from lunchtime soccer at Akuffo-Tom school in Akropong Akuepem, Ghana, 2005.  Photo: Ryan Witcombe

I also spent three months in Ghana, volunteering with GVN’s local partner Help a School Project. I volunteered as a teacher at a high school in the town of Akropong-Akuepem, teaching English, social studies and computers to the students and providing computer training to some of the teachers.

Some people question having to pay to be a volunteer, but when I was in Nepal and Ghana I could see that the money I had paid to be there was funding the projects I was participating in. And my contribution as a volunteer was valuable – I felt I was having an impact on the lives of the people I was working with.

But in reality the real value of my volunteering was in my own growth. I learnt about myself – about what I am capable of and what I am passionate about, and I grew as a person. I returned to Australia still with an interest and passion for social justice and the developing world, but also with confidence and drive, and a self-awareness I hadn’t experienced before.

This week, Global Volunteer Network has released a report on the top ten reasons why international volunteering will help you get ahead.

Click here to view the report on the “Top Ten Reasons Why International Volunteering Will Help You Get Ahead”. 

The report is authored by Eliza Raymond, an expert on international volunteer programs who has volunteered all over the world and worked with the Global Volunteer Network for the last 3 years.

Want to find out more? Visit

Read about Ryan's international volunteering experiences at

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  • Avatar elizaraymond says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I'm glad to hear that you had a rewarding and worthwhile time in both Nepal and Ghana. I totally agree with you that international volunteering is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you're capable of. I also think it's great that you acknowledge this. From my personal experience, the best volunteers are often those who recognize that volunteering is a 2-way street. Volunteers who acknowledge that they have as much to learn as they have to give back, tend to have a more open-minded approach to their experience. I believe this is really important because it means that they'll take the time to learn from the community rather than focus on pre-conceived ideas about what a community 'needs'.

    So thank you for sharing and I hope you have many more opportunities to volunteer again soon!


  • Carol Gallo Carol Gallo says:

    Nice piece– Cross-Cultural Solutions, based in New York, has a similar philosophy which draws me to it. ( Thanks for this article!

  • Caitie Caitie says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for sharing and I completely agreed with your statement that while you make a contribution in the community, you also learn a lot about yourself! You sound like you had the right attitude as a volunteer and I hope you get to experience many more opportunities! 🙂

  • Andréa Franca Andréa Franca says:

    Hi Ryan Witcombe.
    Volunteer work is the thing more magnific the world. I’m sure that you had your reasons and was a great learning experience for you. I believe that you did this for give one motivation for the world, change the world, change yourself and walk directly for what you believe could be real. His intention the helping and stay satisfied is really good and the world need more people like you!

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