Camera, check. Sunscreen, check. Disposable old life perspective, check.
We all know the wide array of benefits packed in voluntary work – self-fulfillment, better portfolio, good karma and more. But why go all the way to somewhere like Cambodia to do something nice when The Salvation Army is right around the corner?
As a student and a cliché millennial that pedestalizes the idea of traveling and the very much overused word Wanderlust, I jumped at my first opportunity to do medical volunteer work in Cambodia because, Cambodia. But now it is an annual affair, here’s why.
Makes you Realize life isn’t all too bad
Any kind of voluntary work builds empathy, but being in countries like Cambodia proliferated with slums, witnessing that their only daily access to medicine or healthcare is the unexperimented herb plant from the neighbor’s backyard really gets you re-evaluating the problems you deal with back home.
Not that those problems become any less valid, but they shrank to microscopic size beside theirs. And whenever I start getting all big headed or caught up with hiccups back at work, revisiting the experience in my head smacks me right back to place.
It Teaches you How to Speak Human
While trying to pull a Mother Theresa, you try to understand the dire conditions underprivileged people undergo. This naturally evokes primitive human emotions like empathy, which has been researched to be revolutionary for any working culture.
Especially for corporate leaders, this skill of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes cultivates an open-mind that is more receptive and encouraging of different ideas.
Brings out your Inner Van Gough
Creativity is basically to see the ordinary differently, to see an apple and think of how you can drink it like water. A single exposure can make the difference between a Mcdonald’s advertisement and any perfume commercial.
Increases Cultural Competency
They say you never truly know someone until you live with them. No doubt, it is almost second nature for us to be culturally sensitive in a cosmopolitan society like Singapore but living amongst the locals gives you something else.
I became more mindful of my habits as I began living with theirs, which developed a heightened sensitivity and appreciation for both their culture and mine.
Allows you to See Beyond the Horizon
Being in a foreign place allows you to be that hipster frog that looks beyond the well. It broadens your exposure, gets you seeing things in a different light as you find new interests and passions that lights you up.
It probably would not be as dramatic as ditching your current job to start a Mcdonald’s franchise, but small things like thinking of new ways to approach old problems or learning new skills is always a step up.
More than anything, volunteering abroad gives you a better sense of self. I began to picture the bird’s eye perspective of people, places and things and found out exactly where I wanted to place myself – on my couch with my laptop typing a blog article about my Cambodia trip.
But of course, to each his own. For now, someone read my article, check.