Country: United Kingdom

Business Development

I've Got 99 Problems But My Child Volunteering Overseas Isn't One

February 13, 2013
Dear Mum and Dad,
True fact: You spend your time wishing we were more independent, self-sufficient and a little bit more ‘grown up’, just so that you could experience what sanity is like once again! Yet when faced with the idea of us going overseas to a foreign country and culture alone, you may feel like grounding us for two months - just so that you can keep us for that little bit longer, safe and sound. Even if we are 22 years old or older!
Would you not be more worried if we stayed at home doing what we call that 'nothing' all day (ie. listening to music, Skyping friends, watching movies) and complaining about being bored?  
What about being more worried if we were happy with a part-time, minimum wage job with no prospects beyond “Lead Produce Inspector” at the local grocery store? Perhaps, then, it would be better to question whether we are researching all the volunteering options available to us and whether we are getting all the health advice and inoculations needed before launching out.. 
It’s natural to fear the unknown, but the secret is to trust that whatever the outcome It will be a positive experience, whether immediately or through hindsight and the wisdom it imparts. You will no doubt be impressed with the difference between us the youth that leaves and the young adult who returns home. Apart from the immediate benefits of helping others and learning about an unfamiliar culture, we will come back more mature, more responsible, and more appreciative with stories to tell and experiences to share.  
Share this experience with us. Help us learn words and phrases that will be useful, or important customs we may not be aware of; for example, clothing and greetings that are considered appropriate, and will help us to acclimate to our new surroundings. 
Share with us your own life experiences, abroad or otherwise, and we will appreciate any advice (we promise!)
But please don’t do all the work for us. Some things we need to learn for ourselves first-hand. You will be far more impressed by all of the hard work we have put into planning our volunteer trip and, also, leave you feeling more secure about embarking on this ‘adventure’.
Of course we will keep in contact with you when we are overseas. You will be the first people we will call when we arrive to let you know that we are safe and how soon we will be able to contact you again. With cell phones and the internet keeping in touch is impossibly easier than it used to be. We may even begin a blog so you can keep up with all of our adventures this way! We will be eager to share our exciting news (…possibly leaving out the parts where we and our fellow volunteers try out each of the local beers on our night off). 
Keep copies of our important documents. (This is just ‘in case’, but could be a real headache saver later on; I don’t ever lose anything ever, honest, mum).

On our way...

Maybe help by showing us a few simple cooking skills and how easy it is to cook some basic meals if we might find ourselves in a situation where we could temporarily be fending for ourselves.  It couldn’t hurt, right? Because I’m not sure if every country around the world stocks 25c Ramen noodles, even if we may be masters of the one admittedly impressive culinary triumph.
And last but not least, be patient with us.  Adjusting to a new climate, culture, surroundings…and being parted from you,  is not going to be easy or accomplished in just a few days. It will be an on-going process. And your support and encouragement could be exactly what we need to face these challenges that will ultimately make this trip an incredibly rewarding and memorable volunteering experience that we’ll always cherish.
So we’re ready to go – but there’s one remaining item on our potential wish list from our supportive family....a ride to the airport would be really, really nice. (But please try to keep tears to a minimum; chances are our parkas will be safely stashed away in a bag or suitcase.…) 
Love you, and see you in a few months!
Photo credits: Pen-Flickr, Feverblue. Plane-Flickr, Araswami.