All posts tagged: Volunteering

It’s my birthday and I can cry if I want to – or, in fact, do whatever I feel like

This time last year I decided to celebrate my 25th birthday with a job interview. It was for a promotion within my team, which I felt obliged rather than inclined to apply for and, rather unexpectedly, I got the job. A year later I’m sitting in the persistent heat of Port-Au-Prince in the relatively temperate shade of a hammock-slung tree, discussing social media strategy with the director of a local orphanage. Although it took a number of punishing life events for this change to come about, I feel the benefits of that change pertinently, not only in place, but in entire philosophy. There’s something so powerfully brainwashing about the English school system, mirrored I’m sure by many education systems around the world. There was such a strong focus in my school on securing a prodigious place at university. This ladder was presented to us from a young age, each wrung a new set of qualifications, from GCSEs onwards, all with the ultimate goal of a rewarding life-long career. But it’s only as I reach my …

The nomads of Mexico: how to afford a life of travel

How can people afford to spend their lives travelling? It’s a question I’ve been asking ever since I experienced my first months’ backpacking and the wonderful, heightened state of existence they allowed me to access. Even now, out in the world again with my life on my back, the question is ever-present, seductive and unanswerable: how can I sustain this? It was only when I found myself staying at Junax, a small hostel in San Cristóbal Mexico exclusively for volunteers, that I began to understand how it could be done. There we found a very different kind of traveler – the kind you need to become to make travel a sustainable lifestyle. These were people staying in the city for long periods of time and working with charities, some of these placements arranged by the owner of the hostel herself. Most were also working on their own side projects – one author, a couple of PHD students – and this hostel, deliberately low cost to encourage volunteers, made a long-term stay more than affordable. Combine …

Avoiding voluntourism – how to choose a volunteering project overseas

There’s been a fair amount of negative rhetoric in the media recently about volunteering abroad, or as people have come to label it: voluntourism. The Gap Yah videos highlighted a caricature everyone can recognise in at least one of their acquaintances – that self-righteous and ultimately vacuous individual who reports tirelessly on their quest for self-enlightenment in various third world countries. So when I was thinking about quitting my job, travelling abroad and giving up some of my time to a charity, I had these concerns at the front of my mind, keen to avoid becoming part of this troubling group. I was reminded of the stories you sometimes hear about volunteers in the UK: big businesses sending skilled employees out to help a cause, but the charity lacking the resources to prepare for it. And, whilst they don’t need the offered time, they could very much use the cash donation that comes with the deal. So the loaned workers are deployed in the more menial daily tasks of running the organisation: gardening, cleaning, the making of …

How to quit your job for the next adventure

“When life gives you lemons, just say: fuck the lemons – and bail.” I’m 25 and I’ve just been through my first divorce. Okay, not actually a divorce – not legally, anyway. But take the breakdown of a four and a half year relationship, a property dispute and the ultimate abandonment of my largest friendship group, and we’re getting pretty close. Walking across the park opposite the property in question, adjusting to the news my childhood friends no longer wish to own it with me, and for the first time in my life I wonder if there really could be some kind of divine being out there… divining. How could such a year, such a progression of rejection fall to me at random? There must be a cruel and masochistic orchestrator. That, or I’ve recently developed a repellent quality, unknown to myself, so abhorrent people run screaming from my presence. A lingering smell, perhaps. I’ve been advised that the latter fear is ludicrous, and I can’t quite bring myself to believe the former, my atheism far too …