This month I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer in Delhi, India, for 10 days with 10 other fantastic volunteers. I previously published a post explaining what I would be up to; working alongside ASOS Foundation and Udayan Care, running workshops for the girls and boys under Udayan’s care, and painting some of the communal rooms within their homes. The week was an experience I’ll never forget. The children and volunteers who work for Udayan Care, were so welcoming of us, allowing us into their lives with open arms, creating wonderful memories that will be with forever. Iut was such a fulfiling and rewarding experience. I’ve really struggled to put into words just how much the week meant to me. I would highly recommend volunteering, especially with children, and I can’t thank ASOS Foundation and Udayan Care enough, for this incredible opportunity.
Before heading out to Delhi, I had a tremendous amount of nervous and anxiety about the trip. Although I was excited, the trip felt very daunting, and having never done anything like it before, I had no idea what to expect.
If you too are thinking of volunteering (especially abroad), or have booked a similar trip, and would like some tips before you travel, I thought I’d share some things I learned from my experience. These include practical tips, such as packing correct clothing and taking lots of snacks, to more emotional factors, taking the time to reflect each day, and process your thoughts and feelings.
Top 5 Tips for Volunteering Abroad:
- Pack for all conditions
- Prepare to be emotional
- Take snacks
- Pack medication
- Remember to reflect on each day
Pack for all conditions
This might sound like an impossible task, but things such as the weather, accommodation and travel can be unpredictable. Layers are a must! You can still pack light, as you don’t need a different outfit for each day. You’ll quickly become accustomed to wearing whatever is comfortable and practical.
Prepare to be emotional
Although we promised to keep our emotions under control in front of the girls, the week was a bit of a roller coaster! All the children and volunteers we had the pleasure of meeting, were all so beautiful, so generous and so welcoming, that by the time it came to our last day, we had formed bonds with many of them. For our leaving ceremony, some of the girls sang Hindi songs and performed traditional dances. The evening was so beautiful, and I was in such awe of these incredible children, that I lost it and balled my eyes out! Not what I wanted to do, and it was difficult to explain to the little ones that I was crying happy tears! I wish I could keep my emotions under better control, but if you’re like me, take tissues!! And step out if you need 2 mins to regain your composure.
Food can also be unpredictable and although I was happy and willing to try anything, I did find myself craving snacks such as biscuits, chocolate and fruit. I packed a couple of packets of dried fruit but wish I’d packed more. After 3 savoury Indian meals per day and savoury Indian snacks in between, chocolate soon becomes something you can’t live without! (And I don’t even have a sweet tooth).
Pack medication (for just about anything!)
I packed all the medication I’d need if I got Delhi belly, but stupidly forgot to pack basics such as paracetamol and ibruprofen. I felt really groggy a couple of days in, with a horrible headache and sore throat. Luckily someone had someone else on the trip had packed paracetamol and strepsils, that I could borrow. When you’re abroad it can be difficult to find a pharmacy, and difficult to understand the different types of medication available, especially if you don’t speak the language. Anti-histamines are also a great shout! New climates, linen, food, even air, can upset you. Anti-histamines can come in handy, something I don’t often think of.
Remember to reflect on each day
It’s important to take 5 and process what you’ve experienced each day. Some of the people on my trip took notebooks and documented their days by getting their thoughts down on paper. In hindsight, I wish I’d done this. It would not only help to remember every part of each day in years to come, but it would also help to reflect on the day. I believe this is crucial to feel rejuvenated for the next day. Volunteering can be intense – tiring in both a physical and emotional sense. I found it helpful to text Stew, even if I knew he wouldn’t be online for hours, to get my thoughts and feelings out.
If you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them. If you’d rather not leave questions in the comment section under this post, please feel free to email me.