Volunteering in Africa - well

Get your boots dirty: Volunteer overseas

Travel is awesome. Travel that helps other people is even better. Volunteer travel, or “Voluntourism“, is a great way to learn about another part of the world, learn more about yourself and the discover firsthand the joys of lending a hand. I recently wrote an article for BootsnAll magazine about a volunteer experience I had in Ghana, Africa. Here are a few quick excerpts:

“When you think about your travel destination wish list, a refugee camp in Africa may not pop into your head. And when you think about fun activities to do on vacation, back-breaking labour behind a pick axe or being ankle deep in human excrement probably won’t make the cut.

But I had always wanted to travel to Africa. And as a graduate of Development and International Studies, I knew I wanted to skip the safari and resorts and really get my boots dirty. So at age 25, after my contract with work expired, I signed up for a two month trip through an international volunteer placement agency.

Despite my initial doubts that first night at camp, this experience would turn out to be one of the most rewarding and transformational adventures I’ve ever had…

Volunteering on Liberian Refugee Camp - drummers

Drummers on camp

…I spent my two months on camp volunteering with a community-based organization’s Water and Sanitation team (or WATSAN as it was lovingly referred to as). My days were filled with digging wells and cleaning out sewage drains alongside Liberian refugees and other international volunteers like myself.

With tens of thousands of Liberian refugees living in the camp, access to water was a real challenge. So armed with a rickety wheelbarrow, a pick axe and a few shovels, we did our best to build wells in the community. It was hot, back-breaking work but knowing the value it would bring to the camp made it all worthwhile.

Volunteering in Ghana

Getting my boots dirty

However, the most rewarding part of the job happened in between the swings of the pick axe: during the conversations with the Liberian refugees who were volunteering with us…

… I wanted to go and make a difference and change lives. In the end though, it was my life that changed. What I gave to the Buduburam Liberian Refugee Camp pales in comparison to what I got back from the experience.”

Ghana - kids

Local kids pose for a shot

Read the full article on the BootsnAll website, including a couple stories about how I chased a thief through back alleys and how we made a game out of shovelling poop.

Have you had a transformative volunteer/travel experience? Share you stories in the comment section below.

Buddha Belly BadgeThe Buddha Belly Badge recognizes creative and inspiring ways to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.
Josh is the creative force behind Badge of Awesome, where he noodles and doodles about life and the lessons learned from it. He's the author of Simply Blunderful and creator of The Overcoming Obstacles Toolkit.

7 thoughts on “Get your boots dirty: Volunteer overseas

  1. 5ucm.header.us says:

    I regularly use Storyline to create interactive learning exercises for my Communication classes. My students find them very useful. I could contribute my current library and anything new that I develop also.

  2. 3f32 says:

    Thank you for asking, we will be announcing the entertainment line-up very soon and will be notified by email for those who subscribe.

  3. a0rj says:

    The first time my spirit animal, the Lone Wolf, came to me was in recurring nightmares as a child. The wolfs presence scared me, but now that I look back at it, I can feel in my heart that the Lone Wolf was watching over me. There have been several experiences where this Lone Wolf has once again shown itself to me. From the understanding I have come to, I myself am a Lone Wolf. I feel as if my life is a lie, deep in my heart I know I have a purpose in this world. I have a calling. Whenever I ignore this calling I fall victim to depression and the sense of being so lost in this world. I pay much, much more attention to my intuition and calling now of this Lone Wolf within me. In my heart, I know I am here for a very particular reason. All my life I have had visions, dreams, and day dreams of me living and fulfilling this purpose in my life, however it scares me. I am happy and afraid at the same time, because if my visions are true, which every day that seems to be the case, then… I have very big shoes to fill. It scares me so much but I am so proud of it. I pray to God every night for his angels to lower their wings and guide me through this path that he has chosen for me. I pray for the courage to endure the steep climb up this big mountain. Please send me good energy and pray for clarity in my life. It would be a blessing I wouldn’t be able to fathom into words.

Comments are closed.