In America, we love the quick fix. We are bombarded by advertising campaigns designed to appeal to our short-term thinking. Lose 14 pounds in 2 weeks! Detoxify your body in 3 days! Take this pill to cure every malady under the sun! It’s natural to want our problems to melt away while we sleep—to disappear as apparitions on the wind because we ate acai berry, took a vitamin, or practiced positive thinking. Of course, deep inside we all know the truth: that real, meaningful, sustained change takes hard work and time. The equation is no different on a larger scale. The world’s problems are maddeningly complex. They’re the product of centuries of conflict, many of which were born of deep-seated philosophical differences. Cultures have developed within the framework of war, suffering, corruption, poverty, and loss. Changing something so vast, something with such a complicated and firm foundation must, of necessity, take great effort.
Today’s volunteer organizations are moving the world towards a healthier, more sustainable future. Each person who volunteers makes a difference. It may feel small—like the whole is too great for any one of us to change it—but we’re not trying to change it alone. If there is one thing volunteering has taught me it’s that the group is mighty. Collectively, we are changing lives every single day.
ProWorld is one of these organizations. Through their community-based social enterprise approach, ProWorld provides unique cultural experiences to volunteers while they improve conditions in some of the poorest places. A full 86% of their volunteer funds go back into their projects (the remaining 14% covers administrative costs.) They are a well-established organization with programs in 14 countries. Their programs focus on a variety of projects including construction, community development, education, environmental monitoring and conservation, health, and women’s development. One of the things I love about this organization is their commitment to building local economies by employing local people.
Another thing that sets ProWorld apart is their focus on language proficiency. They offer intensive language courses before each project at no extra cost. I think this is something many volunteer organizations lack and it’s something that helps to build a volunteer community that feels integrated and competent. Language skills are incredibly important far beyond the scope of a volunteering trip. They may make a volunteer more interested in volunteering again and they help to break down cultural barriers before, during, and after a volunteering experience. They also have an active presence on the social networks and a regularly updated blog with first-hand volunteer stories, a great way for prospective volunteers to learn more about what it’s like to participate in a ProWorld project. (ProWorld also got great reviews over on Go Overseas!)