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Why not combine seeing the world with volunteering?

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Daniel Esparza - published on 03/17/24

Volunteering abroad challenges your comfort zone, broadens your understanding of the world, and allows you to witness the power of faith in action across countries and communities.

For many Catholics, travel is not just about sightseeing and ticking destinations off a bucket list. It’s an opportunity to broaden perspectives and deepen one’s faith. But how can we ensure our travels are more than fleeting experiences and instead become journeys of meaningful service? The answer lies in combining the spirit of adventure with core Catholic values – compassion, justice, and solidarity.

How about making your travel about volunteering?

You’ve probably never thought about it, but volunteering abroad presents a powerful way to integrate faith with travel. Organizations like Catholic Relief Services, a local branch of the Church’s international Caritas organization, and various missionary groups offer opportunities to volunteer — and make a lasting impact.

Imagine assisting with educational programs in a rural village, helping build homes in a disaster-stricken area, or providing care for refugees fleeing conflict. These experiences aren’t mere vacations; they are opportunities to live out the Gospel message by serving those most in need.

The key to ensuring that your volunteer experience is substantial lies in careful planning and a commitment to responsible volunteering. Research to find organizations with a strong track record of ethical practices and projects that align with your interests and skillset. Consider the length of your commitment: a well-planned short-term project can be impactful, but longer-term volunteering allows for deeper experiences and lasting relationships.

Catholic teachings emphasize the importance of respect and cultural sensitivity. Learn the local language (as much as you can), dress appropriately, and approach your work with a spirit of humility and a willingness to learn. 

Be mindful of local customs and traditions and remember that your goal is to collaborate and support, not impose your own worldview.

Volunteering abroad can be transformative. It challenges your comfort zone, broadens your understanding of the world, and allows you to witness the power of faith in action across countries and communities. Returning home, you’ll carry not just souvenirs, but a renewed perspective and a deeper connection to the global Catholic community

In some sense, your travels become a pilgrimage – a journey of service and shared humanity that strengthens your faith and leaves a positive mark on the world.

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