Portugal alumnus Donn Rance has returned to Portugal to teach English to youth with Global Volunteers nearly every year since 2013 – the most of any other volunteer. Now as he prepares for his seventh Portugal service program in October 2021, he reflects on his personal enrichment on volunteer journeys not only in Portugal, but in Peru and Cuba as well.
What has propelled each of your nine service programs with Global Volunteers?
Primarily the students, teachers, and the local people you meet during a Global Volunteers program. This has been the case in all my service programs – in Peru, Cuba, and especially Portugal. Secondarily, it is the camaraderie that forms as being part of a team with common goals. Volunteering is all about the service and giving something of yourself. Whether with Global Volunteers or some other local or international program, your main goal is to help others. This can be done in so many ways…community projects, teaching, delivering meals, and more.
You have a mature relationship with your students now in Portugal. Is this the same everywhere?
One of the highlights in my experience, in every Global Volunteers program, is I have met some very interesting people willing to share their culture, experiences, and outlooks on a variety of things. I have made many “local” friends whom I still stay in touch with — many in Portugal. We are always happy to see each other again no matter the time that has passed. This is one of the many reasons I like volunteering. Overall, personal enrichment is the greatest benefit. Learning new perspectives from teammates, learning a new (or ongoing) cultural experience from those you serve or friendships you make, and the visual experience of seeing and traveling in a new country is personally enriching.
Say more about personal enrichment you gain from these volunteer assignments. How have you learned about yourself?
I have been lucky to work primarily in the same school and with the same teachers on each of my Portugal programs. It has allowed for a great bonding experience and the ability to refine my teaching capability by having a single “mentor”. I guess through all of this I have learned that I am more capable than I first thought, learned about the true meaning of flexibility, and learned to be more accepting of new things. My horizons have expanded.
What advice do you have to other retirees about “active aging” and volunteering?
You are never too old to contribute, to serve, to learn, and to broaden your horizons. As they say, “Age brings wisdom” and a great degree of adaptability. It’s also great to know that, in a small way, I have contributed to the global society.
“I guess through all of this I have learned that I am more capable than I first thought, learned about the true meaning of flexibility, and learned to be more accepting of new things. My horizons have expanded.”– Donn Rance
What is your advice to other people who may be considering a volunteer opportunity?
Do it! You will not be disappointed. You will be challenged, and at times feel frustrated and tired. You will learn a lot about yourself, have a great cultural experience, and meet some very interesting individuals during your program.
You are returning to service in October for your tenth service program. What a milestone! What do you most look forward to?
I can’t wait! Since I will be returning to Beja, Portugal for my seventh service program there, I have already been making plans with friends, mapping out some possibilities for pre and/or post-program Portugal travel, and working on expanding what little Portuguese I have learned.
Overall, this will make ten Global Volunteers programs, and I have enjoyed each one for the things I have learned, the contributions (however small) I have been able to make, and the people I have met. I have primarily taught conversational English, but I have also cooked, peeled vegetables, sanded and painted fencing, done some game playing with four and five-year-olds, and taken a group of three-year-olds on a walk (was a blast!). Whatever was asked! And I’m already thinking about an 11th program in 2022.
“Do it! You will not be disappointed. You will be challenged, and at times feel frustrated and tired. You will learn a lot about yourself, have a great cultural experience, and meet some very interesting individuals during your program.”– Donn Rance
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