Did you ever play the game of ‘Life’ when you were a kid? I did, and I always cheated to make sure the job I got was Travel Agent. I have been wanting to travel the world since I was a little girl and as I grew older, I wanted that travel to make a difference. There are, of course, the obvious ways of making a difference while traveling the world such as joining the Peace Corps but I’ve never been a “doing the obvious” kind of girl. There are many opportunities out there for voluntourism but the one I’m drawn to the most is the United Nations Volunteers program. While I’m kind of internet famous, I don’t have the same kind of influence that Angelina Jolie has to be a Goodwill Ambassador.
The United Nations Development Program focuses on the challenges of Democratic Governance, Poverty Reduction, Crisis Prevention & Recovery, Environment & Energy and HIV/AIDS. As a volunteer, you can have an impact even in the shortest period if you’re giving all you can to the cause. The UN defines your role as a volunteer as “that of both facilitator and catalyst. UNV encourages you to be creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to develop capacity and to promote and foster volunteerism for peace and development – both within and beyond the formal framework of your assignment.”
Development starts with education, which is something that a lot of kids as well as adults don’t have access to during their lifetime. It’s no secret that, more often than not, it’s the women who are denied education because in developing world countries, they are thrown into the maternal role at an early age. They don’t get to have a favorite book, they don’t get to teach their kids how to read, and worse, they don’t even get a vote in who runs their country. So imagine being in the room when a 92-year-old woman gets to vote for the first time. If you volunteer, you could get to be part of initiatives such as the 2012 national voter registration campaign in Timor-Leste.
Maybe you’re all about the green movement. You love seeing how solar power is evolving and making a difference in our lives in United States and across the world. How would you feel about installing the first solar panels in a remote village where families have been destroying forests to get the firewood they need to light and heat their homes? You’d be making a genuine difference in the lives of families who no longer have to worry about having enough firewood to heat their homes in the winter. Because you left your comfort zone and decided to volunteer abroad, you would literally be bringing sunshine into someone’s life in a way that would change their lives. It may sound a little corny but it’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? I can already hear you packing your bags.
We all want world peace but what are we doing to help achieve it? How many of us can even truly empathize with what’s going on out in the world? Sure, you can donate to your favorite cause once a year, and sign petitions.
Me? I’d rather get my hands dirty for peace.