Volunteering after retirement from daily work might just make your Golden Years, well, golden. In this interview, Judy, a Global Volunteer since 2005, explains how she’s crafted her “life after paid work” to explore and give back to the world.
How Has Retirement Changed Your Vision for the Future?
“The Golden Years.” What do these words suggest to me? When I looked the phrase up online, I found two basic definitions. The first was that they comprised the later years in life after one has retired from employment, while the second defined them as a period in which someone or something flourished. For me, a retiree, the first one definitely applies, and I’m hopeful that the second one does, too.
I meet a group of friends at a local Starbuck’s each week. Most of us are retired educators who stopped working within a few years of each other. Frequently, we comment on how fortunate we are – how we led fulfilling careers, how we enjoy relatively good health, how we own homes in an area where real estate has become exorbitantly expensive, how we now have the opportunity to choose how we spend our days, and generally speaking, how we have the means to carry out these choices. In other words, we have a chance to flourish.
Of course, there are countless options open to us in achieving this. Some help out at churches and temples, others coach sports, many assist with getting grandchildren to and from different activities and encouraging them in their endeavors. However, if expanding your view of the world and simultaneously lending a helping hand a bit farther from home appeal to you, becoming a member of a Global Volunteers team in your Golden Years is an option I encourage others to explore.
How Has Exploring and Volunteering in Your Golden Years Enriched You?
Global Volunteers operates many types of programs. For example, one can offer TLC to children with disabilities, help people build Earth boxes, or work on an Indian reservation. Because of my teaching experience, I have always chosen programs that feature assisting foreigners as they practice and fine tune their English language skills. Even then, the programs vary. In Xi’an, China, it involved instructing minority Uyghur students who had come from the far western parts of the country to continue their educations; in Lima, Peru, it was working at an agricultural college; in Portugal, it meant assisting in middle school classes; in the summer Kunming, China program, it called for helping Chinese teachers of English improve their proficiency of our language.
When I spend one to three weeks in a place, I get to know that region in a way that isn’t possible with a stop of only a day or two on a typical tour. At the country retreat where volunteers stay in Poland, I remember hearing the gaiety of wedding celebrations held on the weekends. During the month of March in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, I unexpectedly was able to see a parade of adorable little children, some dressed as flowers or butterflies, as they marched through the streets welcoming the arrival of Spring. When I served in Kunming, I recall witnessing employees of various establishments (restaurants, beauty salons, employees on a single floor of a hotel) line up and recite some sort of pep talk cheer before they began their work shift.
In addition to meeting numerous locals in the country where I’ve served, I also have become acquainted with some top-notch individuals from your my homeland. Volunteers I have served with have come from all areas of the United States, including Hawaii, plus one Canadian and one Brit living in France. Volunteers have included doctors and nurses, educators, engineers, accountants, graduate students, and more.
My most recent service was in Monopoli, in southern Italy. I worked with energetic high school students and tutored motivated adults. I tell people: “Would it interest you to spend a couple of weeks where both the land and the people exude warmth? If so, you might add volunteering with Global Volunteers to your to-do list.”
Ready to pack your bags for a meaningful travel experience?
You can volunteer abroad as a family, group, individual or couple. Some programs are especially enjoyed by retirees. Our volunteer coordinators can help you choose the option that best suites your interests!