International volunteer work is rewarding, and can be especially so in retirement. While giving back and helping others, you make new friends, learn about a different culture and get out of your “comfort zone.” Mature adults who volunteer report higher levels of well-being. Some studies indicate those that volunteer live longer than those who lead more socially isolated lives. Global Volunteers’ retirement volunteer work worldwide in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America, South America and the South Pacific engages retirees in projects that employs their skills and offers a renewed purpose. In this interview, Global Volunteer Craig reflects on the meaning of his two weeks of service:
How Did You Choose Global Volunteers for Your First Experience in Retirement Volunteer Work?
When I retired from teaching, I was looking forward to a change in my routine as well as new adventures. I went on a cruise, and that was great. I was able to visit a variety of places as a tourist. However, it wasn’t quite the experience I was looking for. A friend had told me about Global Volunteers, so I went to the website and found an opportunity to volunteer in Costa Rica – the primary focus on garden projects and conversational English. I had thought about getting an ESL certificate to teach overseas. But this trip seemed like a good way to get the classroom experience along with living in one place for two weeks.
The program with Global Volunteers was incredible. I had no preconceived expectations, but was hoping to enjoy it. Not only did I enjoy it, I loved being of service and being a part of a group of people who felt the same way. But the best part was the welcoming inclusion of our group into the high school community where we worked every day. The teachers, administration and especially the students were genuinely happy to have us there and helped us to acclimate quickly to the work and the culture of the school.
Our team leader, Maggie, was so well-organized and well-respected at the school, that our jobs were easier and more productive. The students were friendly, and many wanted to practice their English with us. So they initiated conversation and participated in discussions – as well as helping us with our Spanish. By the end of the first week, I felt at home at the school and looked forward to the second week.
“By the end of the first week, I felt at home at the school and looked forward to the second week.”
In the classrooms, I loved being the volunteer. It was an opportunity to sit and watch another teacher teach and observe how the kids learned. We were asked to do a variety tasks from small group discussion, playing games, leading activities and helping with writing/homework. I now have a new perspective on attitudes of teenagers. They were so respectful and willing to share about their lives. Working in the gardens together also allowed the students to show their leadership skills as they would teach us what needed to be done, how to use certain tools and how to participate and work effectively as a group.
What Was the Best Part of Your English Teaching Project?
I guess I had not so much expected as hoped for a nice experience. What I came away with was a sense of purpose and the realization that we can be part of a process of growth and development. No, we didn’t get to “finish” projects as such, but we helped get them started and could see how the students would complete them after we left. The sense that something we did would last was amazing and the connections made in conversation, when a student’s face would light up with understanding or knowing that what they thought and felt had relevance and meaning, was more than I could have ever hoped for.
I found out what I want to do with my retirement: volunteer work. Global Volunteers offers an incredible range of countries and opportunities. I want to try as many as I can. They make it easy, safe and truly help us to be able to give and serve and learn.
Retirement Volunteer Work Worldwide
We engage people of all ages and from all walks of life on our volunteer programs. You’ll find boomers, seniors, gen-x’ers and millennials all uniting in a common vision of global possibility. Contact us to learn more about our worldwide volunteer opportunities.
Other blog posts: