Volunteer or service travel is thriving, and that is not surprising given the gratification it provides the traveler. The desire to give back however, is not limited just for those with the greatest means. Farther Foundation is a not-for-profit scholarship organization that provides support for low income high school students to participate in educational travel programs that broaden their horizons and raise their aspirations for success. More and more, the programs their scholarship students choose contain opportunities to provide volunteer service to the communities where they travel. During 2009, the scholarship recipients participated in service projects in Vietnam, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Argentina, Peru and Hawaii. Each developed a new appreciation for what they had, how much they were capable of giving and the impact they can have on people’s lives.
Here is an excerpt of one student’s account of her voluntourism experience that altered her view of what’s truly important in life:
The townspeople in Costa Rica were the most simple-living, friendliest people I’d ever met, and the town itself had an undeniably positive energy about it. This was possibly because everyone knew each other and they spent their time together playing soccer or talking at the town store. Or maybe it was because the people there lived so simply that they didn’t have trivial things to waste their time on like electronics. Either way, I was taken by how I managed to cope with such a simple lifestyle and enjoy every moment of it. This led me to think; if the people in Costa Rica can live so simply and be the most happy and free people I know, then why can’t we? Why must we squander our precious moments in life on trivial things instead of spending quality time with each other? Why is it that there, everyone knows everyone else in their towns but here we don’t even know all of our neighbors on our own block? The answers never seem to come to me, but I personally have grown so much from witnessing such a remarkable lifestyle. I don’t need a cell phone, or television, or computer to make my day, I count on the people I surround myself with daily to do it for me. After living without these material things for a month I came to the realization that many of our “necessities” we have aren’t always that necessary.
Ultimately through this enlightening experience I learned what no book in the world could ever teach me. It’s the simple things in life that we tend to forget which truly make us happy. My outlook on life has been altered tremendously, and I now understand the difference between the things we want in life and the things that we truly need. The less time we spend indulging ourselves in useless activities, the more time we have to spend with each other. If we took the time to enjoy the simple things in life, then I truly believe we would be happier with life, and more importantly with ourselves.
Senior at Mother McAuley High School
Traveled to Costa Rica with Putney Student Travel
Indeed, one of the most rewarding things in life is to provide young people with opportunities to experience the world and to raise their aspirations to contribute to the world they live in.
photo credits: rednewport and farther foundation