11 Things Our Family Gained from our Volunteering Abroad
There is not one day that I wouldn’t think of our friends we made while volunteering in Slukat Bali.
It was such a great experience and it touched us on so many different levels. Here are 11 things we all learned and I hope they will inspire you to consider volunteering with your family too.
First there are some obvious benefits of travelling:[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Just the fact of going to another country, so far away from home was an adventure itself. The girls were excited to pack their own (new) suitcases and spending time on the planes and the airports. They learned the importance of planning and organising travel, as well as how to go through customs, immigration and baggage claims and they enjoyed the airport lounges and shops.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] We visited different part of the world, along with completely different landscape and lifestyle. We learned how people there are living and we saw their homes, markets, shops, traffic… The kids learned that not everyone is lucky to have their own home, room, computer and other things kids in Western world consider a necesity.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Getting to know the history, culture and all kind of traditions was absolutely phenomenal. We visited few temples. We were invited to a cremation ceremony. We were invited to join yoga and traditional dance classes and the girls performed at the weekend camping trip performance playing the angklungs. Totally awesome experience.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] We saw what environment really means for us. People in Bali were using the same approach to plastic waste as they did with all natural materials (like palm leaves, bamboo etc.) and that’s why streets are dirty and full of garbage. The water is polluted and we could only drink bottled water, we even used bottled water for tooth brushing. Not to mention that our bathroom was outside room (with walls, but no roof), where the water (and soap and shampoo and shaving foam and everything else we used) went directly to the ground. I felt guilty of using all those artificial things when showering.
And then there are benefits from volunteering, some expected and some of them I didn’t see coming when we applied, they just showed up like an unannounced bonus 🙂
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] We met other volunteers from countries all around the world. I knew before-hand, that there are other volunteers, but I didn’t really put much thought on it. However spending time with other volunteers, talking to them, learning about their countries (we even had international dinner party) was so much more than just meeting new friends. Because they were much younger than me, the girls saw, that young people travel and help and they have good time. It’s completely different than just me talking about travelling.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] We practiced English. English already comes as a natural language to me, but for girls it was still foreign language they were learning at school, Anja for 6 years and Tina for only 3. Communicating with students, staff and other volunteers in English was great practice and after a while the girls really got very confident speaking it. Anja even asked to assist at the classes.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Often times I see parents struggling with children to get them motivated for school, to study and do homework. When we spent time with students at Slukat, we also learned about their school system and their options. Some kids don’t even go to school and others don’t have a chance to go to high school or college or university because they don’t have money. Without education they are doomed for the low-paying jobs of their parents. My kids learned that knowledge is privilege, and not something we are entitled to.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Important factor that I just started noticing lately is the responsibility of my children. Of course they were quite responsible before, but now I see completely different level of it. They approach things differently and they see their own important role in their lives.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Girls also understand that it’s up to them how they live and will live. I began to notice their self-motivation, which sometimes they lacked. They saw how the students at Slukat were working hard to learn new things just to get to better university or better job. It’s not obligatory but they want to do it.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Big issue that students at Slukat had is their self-esteem, especially when they were talking English with english-speaking white people. They don’t feel confident, they are afraid to say something wrong, but still… they are trying and getting past the barriers. At first I saw it in my kids too, being around different people, talking to them and getting what they want was hard. But over time they became quite confident, they communicated freely and they were not afraid to ask for something or express their opinion.
[icon icon=icon-star size=14px color=#000 ] Last but not least we learned the power of gratitude. We did gratitude journals and daily rituals to remind us of all the things we are grateful for, but people in Bali actually live with it. It shows in every action, every word… When we were on the market and we bought something, the seller was not only saying thanks, but she touched all her other stuff in the shop with the money, hoping it will bring her good luck:) The kids in Slukat are grateful for the time the volunteers spend there, for their teaching, their friendship… you just feel it. And they are very grateful for the school itself, to the founder and the staff… they are paying back by taking care of the classrooms, sweeping and washing them, by watering the garden and smiling all the time.
It was a huge privilege and honor for me to be part of their lives, to support them in their dreams and there is no bigger pleasure than when they post on my Facebook wall:
»Will you come back?«
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