Here are three reasons why:
Get real cultural understanding
How much do you really know about the foreign country you’re living in? Interacting with only your work colleagues offers just a slimmer of what’s really out there. Volunteering will expose you to the “average Joe”. These people will give you real cultural understanding; not the things you see on TV or tourism ads, but an understanding of what’s happening on the ground. Shielded by “expat bubbles”, very few expats are afforded this opportunity. Volunteering is a way to immerse yourself in local culture and take away deeper, more memorable experiences of your time overseas.
Think globally, act locally
The more diversified the demographic of volunteering expats, the more expertise they can bring to help local organizations create, manage, and implement solutions. Expats can make an invaluable contribution if they bring something from home and apply it locally. A language skill, a cooking skill, a different method of teaching – all these can strengthen the fabric of non-profits in your community. Well versed in Bengali, I played a role as a translator for TWC2, translating MOM guides and helping Bangladeshi migrant workers communicate their legal issues to local experts. There is always something new expats can bring to the table.
Broaden your horizons
Volunteering in a foreign land will expose you to humanitarian causes that you previously didn't know about. Sure, some causes are universal, but others, like migrant worker rights and treatment, are specific to local regions. Societies are diverse, and with them come a diverse array of problems that non-profits champion to solve. Water crises, child marriage, labour rights, natural disaster relief, disease prevention, minority rights – these are some of the things unique to different regions, and engaging with these causes can certainly broaden your knowledge, offer perspective, and even inspire you to do more than just volunteer, such as creating a non-profit yourself that’s lacking in your locality.
Life as an expat can become static – doing the same things in and out – but going out there and helping the less fortunate is a fulfilling endeavor that offers far greater dividends than what you signed up for when you decided to work as an expat.
by Sifat Rahman