Couples Volunteering Abroad Gain New, Mutual Insights
Young couples, mature couples, newlyweds, 50+ anniversary couples. Global Volunteers offers an adventure in service together. When you consider how to volunteer abroad on your first…or tenth service program, consider how serving as a couple enlarges the experience. Some have even chosen a Global Volunteers service program as their honeymoon! You’ll discover much more about each other than you do in your daily lives. And, serving together can be more life-changing than having the same experience separately. Many couples say the journey will both challenge and strengthen you. All agree it’s a unique memory you’ll share forever.
When teacher Kelsey Roth and her husband Jake Roth, a mover for Atlas Van Lines, served in Tanzania, they hadn’t planned that their journey of discovery would lead them on a discovery of each other.
“Jake and I have taken vacations together, but we wanted to do more, to get more fulfillment from our travels, and to experience more of the culture,” Kelsey explained. “I had volunteered abroad before and knew that it was an experience I wanted to share with Jake. So, when we decided to volunteer abroad as a couple in Tanzania with Global Volunteers, we knew there were definitely adjustments to make. But we didn’t expect the whole experience would make our relationship stronger.”
The couple tutored students in the village school and helped with labor projects. “Every new experience we shared together was special and something that drew us closer as a couple. We both left with a mutual love for the country and people of Tanzania.” With their love for each other expressed in service to humanity, Jake concluded: “We really believe that volunteering abroad is the only way to travel!”
Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary
On his second service program with his wife, Karen Moore, Bill Spinelli said, “Traveling and serving as a married couple has been a special experience for learning new things about each other–even after 40 years of marriage!” Teaching conversational English in Beja, Portugal was a new an exciting opportunity for them. “We were placed in different schools, with different teachers, and with slightly different objectives,” Bill explained. This allowed us to have unique experiences to share in the evenings and prevented us from “stepping” on each other. While neither have professional experience in the classroom, as a retired physician, Bill said he relied on Karen’s ease working the the students. “We enjoyed seeing each other’s engagement with students and teachers, and how our thought processes and problem-solving techniques differed.
The comfort of having Karen – my spouse – present as we adjusted to a new environment was important. At the same time, the shared community experience enhanced our appreciation of volunteering and provided a deeper understanding of how we each respond to new situations.
Tips for volunteering abroad as a couple:
When you consider a service adventure abroad – one that will require patience, communication, and teamwork – you have an opportunity to imagine what it would be like to work together each day. It’s best to choose a country that appeals to both of you – how much do you know about the culture, language and history? What would you like to learn? What skills are you each willing to share? How flexible are you individually and together with changing itineraries and assignments? What type of lodging do you prefer as a couple? What are make-or-break considerations? Discuss also how you want to spend your free time. Alumni volunteers offer these tips for making the decision easier:
1. Examine the countries on each of your wish lists.
Create separate lists of your top five service program options – including details about what interests you. Then compare your lists. Your selections will likely differ, but Global Volunteers offers a variety of options, so look for overlapping regions.
2. Discuss what type of volunteer projects interest you.
The type of service work you will do depends on (1) what our community partners have requested from us and (2) your interests and skills. Global Volunteers’ unique philosophy of service requires volunteers to work at the invitation and under the direction of local community partners – and one-on-one with local people. While remaining faithful to our philosophy of service, we will also do our best to accommodate your preferences as a couple. Review our community projects page and see where your interests overlap. Keep in mind that some service programs enable you to work together each day if you desire, while others offer a wide variety of volunteer opportunities within the same community.
3. Honestly assess the level of comfort you each seek.
Depending on your appetite for challenge and adventure, you can choose a program close to home, or in a community remote and unseen by conventional tourists. Most Global Volunteers service programs include a private hotel room, or similar – such as a “casa particular” in Cuba and a guesthouse in Tanzania. In the USA, some community lodging is in shared dormitories. Each has its own appeal; it just depends what your preferences are as a couple!
Testimonials from alumni couples who volunteer abroad:
“Traveling together means that you never have to explain the experience to your closest friend. Stepping out of our comfort zone in Cuba enabled Bill and I to grow as a couple; to share an experience that drew us closer even after 45 years of marriage! Watching each other use our individual talents and gifts in Cuba was a gift to ourselves. As we look at our pictures, we smile because we don’t need words to describe where we’ve been. We already share the story.” – Gail and Bill O’Neal Read more about their service adventure together here.
“Neither of us really knew what to expect and we were both pushed out of our comfort zones. This taught us something new about each other, a deeper understanding, and a greater respect. The trip gave us the opportunity to not just learn another culture or to travel somewhere we’d never been but to do something that mattered, together.” – Bethan and Steve
“It’s very difficult to explain that this was not just a trip. It was a life-altering experience for both of us. We touched as many people as we could and made a difference in their lives. Sometimes we got so excited and charged up about our work, we couldn’t sleep at night.” – Barbara and Stephen
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