One of the best ways to gain access to this is through volunteering.It’s long been a passion of mine, and since I first started travelling I’ve aimed to find local projects I can work with.I even got involved in the school’s founding day and involuntarily spent a long time being taught Ecuadorian dance moves by my exceedingly patient students.During my afternoons in Cuenca, I looked after a classroom of one year olds, changed their nappies and generally attempted to keep them from crying.It’s becoming increasingly important to be completely aware of what impact you’ll make before you commit to volunteering with kids – as there could be more negative connotations than you’d think.Read more here: As I continue to volunteer around the world, it’s easy to forget exactly where I’ve been and with what organisation.Once they were done with their classes, we headed homeward, did more homework and played around in the garden.Because there were only eleven children I got to know them really quickly, and was really sad to leave them.
A friend who’d recently travelled through Thailand put me in touch with Howard and Nong, whose permaculture farm I worked on for a couple of weeks.
Here’s a rundown of the various places I’ve volunteered over the years – keep checking back as the list continues to grow!
Just outside a little village named Makongeni, I spent a month in a camp with a big group of English and Australian volunteers.
Most of my time was spent co-ordinating activities, presiding over meal times, chaperoning at the evening disco, and trying to stop the youngest kids stealing the teenagers’ cigarettes and hiding in the bushes to smoke them.
Eventually I discovered that handing over my camera for them to play with was a good deterrent from developing their under-age nicotine habits – and it also resulted in photos like this.
From Nepali orphans, Lithuanian teenagers and the English homeless to Indian celebrities, Thai farmers and Icelandic rockstars, I’ve found that volunteer work allows me to discover the essence of a country – and to connect with its people – like nothing else.