How I Benefited from my Volunteering Work in Colombia

Goodness is innate in human nature, right?

This is why we’d like to believe that more and more people are engaging in humanitarian acts. These acts of kindness can be as huge as contributing to poverty reduction through Oxfam; assisting children in need of proper nutrition, medicine, and education through organizations like Save the Children; community development in struggling areas through Peace Corps; delivering healthy food and safe drinking water in crisis-stricken areas through Action Against Hunger; and providing adequate medical attention through Doctors Without Borders.

The gestures do not have to be grand. Something as simple as volunteering in local soup kitchen; participating in fun run for causes; charity events; fund raising activities; donating to relief services; help students with some writing service; visiting orphanages to spend time with the children; and participating in local, non-violent protests against injustice can make a world of difference.

People nowadays have taken up means to spread goodness and love around the world, making it a better place to live in little by little. Even in the previously drug- and cartel-infested Colombia, volunteer opportunities are available and open to everyone.

The citizens of Cali, in particular, have serious issues with poverty, inadequate infrastructure and services, and inadequate livelihoods. Poor citizens don’t have access to high-quality legal protection. They are voiceless and powerless in the bureaucratic system. Whether you’re an English teacher, doctor, lawyer, architect or any other kind of professional, you’ll definitely find opportunities for volunteering in Cali.

However, we’ve often missed out on what such opportunities have in store for their volunteers. Apparently, volunteers get to have the same good vibes as the non-profit organizations they involve themselves in.

Here’s a rundown of some of the amazing things a volunteer can experience from doing good deeds.

Be familiar with a new culture

Probably a major benefit from a volunteer program is the chance to experience a whole new culture, if you’re volunteering in a different country.

Not only will you travel to a new location, but you’ll also be experiencing things differently. You’ll get to meet new people, try a different cuisine, or know new traditions.

If you’re going to a volunteer program in the city of Cali in Colombia, you will be acquainted with Colombia’s third largest metropolitan area, next to Bogota and Medellin.

Nurture a healthier and happier body, mind, and soul

Do you know that volunteering actually helps improve one’s physical and mental well-being?

Its benefit is similar to doing exercises, except you don’t find yourself sweating profusely by the end of the program. Since it keeps you on your toes, (for instance, playing with kids at a local orphanage) such volunteer work does well for your physical body because it gets you moving.

Volunteering also improves your mental health, since it keeps your mind functioning actively. Studies have shown that volunteerism lowers the risk for heart diseases, reduces stress, and decreases risk for depression.

Perhaps it’s the feel good emotion that you sense after sharing goodness with other people that consists of the so-called ‘Happiness Effect’. We all know that being happy improves any person’s sense of well-being, and prolongs life.

Cali was once known for being the center of drug trafficking, but now it’s known for something else: it’s the capital of salsa. In addition to the usual activities you’ll get through volunteering, you’ll also get to experience one of the most passionate types of dance ever. So cheers to a longer and happier life for all volunteers in Cali!

Develop new skills

Volunteer work presents good opportunities to pick up new skills, especially if you are joining a volunteer program that is skills-based.

Say, for instance, a new art hostel in Cali is open to accommodating work away volunteers who have an inclination for social media management. If you feel like taking in the job, the course of your volunteer work will help you enhance some skills you might already have–research, writing, and community management among others.

But then you’ll be working in a co-living space that houses artists, entrepreneurs, travelers, writers, photographers, musicians and digital nomads. This means you will be spending time around these like-minded people, and can learn something novel from them. You may develop your photography or videography skills especially since social and digital media platforms favor visual content.

Volunteer programs are also considered as training ground for technical and leadership skills. While you’re there, why don’t you try learning salsa? A dancing skill has never hurt anyone!

Try out a career option

Are you still unsure of what to pursue as a professional career? Do you want to know which job you would be more effective in? Well, try volunteering! It can be an avenue for you to explore which career path would work best for you.

Perhaps you want to have a feel of your teaching style because you are considering being part of the academe, or you are very much interested in pursuing marketing as a career.

Another volunteer opportunity in Cali is open to those interested in teaching English or helping salsa schools with social media marketing and networking. You can take on this chance, and test whether you can handle the basic job responsibilities. This way, you won’t have to commit yourself to a career path you are still uncertain of.

Broaden your life experiences

Of course, volunteer programs allow you a different perspective in life.

You learn about a variety of causes and advocacies. Volunteerism offers you firsthand experience of how the government, nonprofit organizations, and the local community address the needs of the community.

It gives you knowledge, and hopefully the understanding too, of how civic responsibility and community development should be integrated in solving problems related to an advocacy.

In Cali, you’ll encounter plenty of problems that need solving, so you’ll put your creative and critical thinking skills to practice. How is the community and local authorities responding to insufficiency of proper nutrition, basic medical attention, or education in their areas?

Build connections and relationships

Aside from experiences, volunteerism improves one’s social skills.

This Colombian city is known for its warm, communicative, and open-minded people. It’s almost impossible to feel alone there, since the locals are always willing to accept foreigners and give them a tour around their favorite places in the neighborhood.

Since you meet, mingle, and work with different personalities during your volunteer work, you’ll definitely create connections and cultivate relationships. This can work for you professionally as well since you might meet someone who can be your professional contact, or lead you to the right career opportunity for you.

Uplifts self-worth and self-esteem

Probably the best thing about volunteerism is that it operates on a love that is two-way.

You get to manifest your love for others, and receive the same kind of love in return–from the community you are helping and from yourself as well. You become connected to the people and community you are involved in, and develop empathy in the process.

What you don’t see is how such positively affects your personal growth. It is indeed fulfilling, knowing that our small acts of goodness can enrich other people and ourselves as well.

Are you wondering how to find a volunteering opportunity in Cali? That’s the hard part. You’ll easily find online ads for volunteering in Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena, but it seems more difficult to find positions in this particular city. Your best chance for success is to connect with a local organization that sends volunteers in Columbia. Or, you could just focus on volunteering in Colombia and make your way to Cali when you get there. With all the benefits you’ll gain from being in this city, your efforts to find a position will definitely pay off.

Laura Buckler is freelance writer always trying to take an in-depth, hands-on approach in writing her articles. She also was a volunteer in India and taught children English there. You can follow her on twitter.

*The information and views set out in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and standpoints of Mladiinfo International. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the text/pictures/video therein lies entirely with the author.