Sound like a cliché? Well it needn’t be.
It is surprisingly easy to change lives abroad here’s how to do it :
Whether you travelled through a volunteer organisation or are simply staying with a local family these five questions will help you source additional ways to really change people’s lives.
1. Ask about the local water supply
Ask your volunteer coordinator if any families have no water at home
According to Unicef in 2013 there were still 783 million people in the world without decent drinking water and that 1,800 children’s deaths are directly linked to water, sanitation and hygiene. Trachoma is the world’s leading form of blindness affects a whopping 10 million people worldwide and is completely preventable through increased facial cleanliness and sanitation.
Investigate whether they have to walk, arrange a time to walk with them. Check the water supply they use for drinking. Find out how much it would cost to provide the following:
A deeper or new water well if supply is limited
A way to connect families to a water supply which is already in place.
Whether water filters might be a medium term solution for families or villages (link to the uk aqua filter trust)
Whether water filters might be a medium term solution for families or villages. (link to the uk aqua filter trust)
2. Ask to visit the poorest families in the neighbourhood
Ask your volunteer coordinator/manager or family hosts to introduce you to the poorest families in the area.
That gives you a chance to understand so that you can possibly buy anything they may be in need of. It may seem a bit intrusive and not something you would do at home or you may feel it might be a hand out or encourage but there might be something which is of serious sustainable use for a family.
Perhaps there is a disabled or sick member of the family who needs resources, urgent medication, a trip to hospital.
Perhaps their livestock were stolen or escaped last week and they just need some new stock which may only cost £50 to replenish the lot. That could hardly be considered a hand out.
3. Ask about the sick and disabled
Ask your volunteer coordinator if there are any sick, disabled or elderly people stuck at home who might value a visit.
In much of the poorest parts of the world, even in the most loving family, disabled people are often kept tucked away in back rooms. Sometimes volunteers have by accident discovered disabled family members stuck in beds in outbuildings at the back of the garden. Often this is not often deliberate neglect but simple ignorance of the condition combined with cultural or local stigma of having a disabled member of the family.
Many volunteers using only the simplest of common sense and online research will be able to identify cerebral palsy or autism where a family may not. It may be possible to collect some information and with the help of your coordinator provide educational help to the family so they can better understand their family members condition and seek dedicated specialist assistance where needed.
4. Ask to visit the local school
Pop along the local school where the poorest children attend and ask the teachers about any challenges they and their students face which can be a barrier to learning.
Do not assume you have to stick to the government-run schools. In some parts of the world the poorest students attend private schools for lack of a free state school or they may choose a private school because of fewer hidden extra charges (more equipment required and higher exam fees).
would probably gasp at how low the monthly fee is. In Africa students may be charged at little as £3 per month and even then be offered to attend for free some months if their family struggles.
5. Ask about larger scale projects
Find out if there is a need for a larger scale project you could help generate support for when you get home. Don’t rule out paying for local expertise to support the community and put your plan into action. There may be experienced unemployed professionals who would love a part time job to implement your project plans when you cannot be there, providing you with regular feedback on progress which in turn will help you to fundraise further.