volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff started volunteering abroad after a personal loss. His journey of healing lead him to a new journey – as a Team Leader for Global Volunteers. This is Jeff’s story – about how volunteering abroad comforts the soul. 

Jeff admits his story is deeply personal. When he lost his wife to breast cancer, he also lost his sense of direction. Depression filled the void and he knew he had to regain his life’s purpose.  But how?  His compassionate employer recommended a sabbatical. But, Jeff knew that sitting around a pool wouldn’t give him the centering focus he needed.  He sought something more meaningful. So he started looking for an organization that would give him the opportunity to volunteer and work oversees.  He quickly found Global Volunteers online and selected a program teaching conversational English in Italy.  He surrendered himself to the experience, to the challenge, the culture and the gratitude of his students.  In this small southern Italian town, he felt the comfort his soul longed for.

“The experience was everything I had hoped for: rewarding, fulfilling…”

Fifteen years later Jeff yearned to recapture this feeling of optimism and possibility as a volunteer. Knowing Global Volunteers would enable him to keep doing this fulfilling and rewarding work, stay active and travel, he made a call to the organization immediately after he retired.  He was fully committed to throw himself into service programs worldwide. Becoming a volunteer team leader and helping other volunteers to experience the life-transforming experience he had was a strong motivation.  Jeff trained to become a Team Leader and has since led volunteer teams in Italy, Cuba, and Montana, and very soon – Vietnam.  He says he looks forward to every new journey with the same enthusiasm and hope as his first service program.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff volunteering with Italian students.

Why Global Volunteers?

Jeff chose Global Volunteers because it allows volunteers to serve abroad for a short period of time (1 to 3 weeks) and not having to commit for many months like other organizations. At the same time, Global Volunteers sends volunteers consistently, so it is not about what one volunteer can accomplish in a couple of weeks, but about the long chain of support volunteer teams provide to the host communities.

What do volunteers gain from a service program abroad?

Volunteers give up a lot, Jeff says: time with their families, time at work, time from regular vacations. But they gain a lot: friendships that they will never loose and the understanding that they have contributed to something of value to struggling communities in developing nations.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff with a group of students in Italy.

Imagine all the people

Back in March Jeff was leading a team of 14 women in Cuba. When a local band started playing John Lennon’s Imagine, he realized his team was living just that:

“Living life in peace, sharing all the world, living as one.”

This was what Global Volunteer has been all about: Waging peace and promoting justice in the world.

You are special to me

That same team got to witness something special. On International Women’s day, people in Cuba would go out from their houses and hand flowers to the volunteers as they walked by. When the team arrived at the community garden where they were serving, one of the workers, Adriano, gave roses to the volunteers.

“He spoke a different language, but everyone knew what this meant: “You are special to me, you are important to me.”

Volunteering Abroad Comforts the Soul

A volunteer receives a flower from local Cuban worker.

Do you have what it takes?

Take a look at your skills, at the work you’ve done, and try to match up with the various projects Global Volunteers offers in 17 countries around the world. Your skills might fit a project most appropriately. Take advantage of that.

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”

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