10 Years of Responsible Volunteering: Never too old to volunteer

Over the last ten years Globalteer has welcomed volunteers of all ages - from gap year students right through to retirees. To date with think our most mature volunteer was 80! But age means nothing in the world of international volunteering - what really matters is ability and attitude. So here we feature some of our older volunteers who wanted to tell us about their experiences, the impact volunteering has had on their lives, and why they would recommend it. 

Thank you Globalteer for enhancing my life in many ways

Volunteering in Colombia turned out to be more challenging than I anticipated. I had never worked with disadvantaged and traumatised children before or worked with my husband, Steve. I thought we would be working in different classrooms but it turned out we would be sharing one between us. The first few days we quickly saw a different side to each other. In our marriage we knew our roles and strengths and got on really well together but this was different.

As a trainer I had all these ideas of what I wanted to do with the children, as a former Policeman Steve had worked with children in need and he wanted to be in charge. Needless to say we came up with a great plan to make it work and we saw each other in a different, exciting new light and our marriage has become even stronger, we loved working as a team at work. The children were challenging at times but after ten weeks of trust and fun and at times tough love they gave us as much reward as we gave them.

I loved working with the children - it was so rewarding and fulfilling and I knew I wanted to continue doing a meaningful job once I returned home. I now work for Mencap assisting people to live independently and I love it. Globalteer changed my life. I would never have thought about working with people of all ages with challenging behaviour and learning difficulties and now I feel fulfilled, challenged and wanted in my job.

I also became famous for a month by sharing my Colombian experience in The Women & Home magazine hoping to inspire others of a certain age to make a difference to others and yourself. Thank you Globalteer for enhancing my life in many ways.

Erika Oakley, Colombia Community volunteer

To those who are in two minds I would just say "go for it"

I was 60 and recently retired when I volunteered at the Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary and the Cambodia Clean Water project. It was fantastic. At both projects you can work at your own pace and you get a lot help and guidance from the permanent local staff. It was a real privilege taking the water filters out to the remote villages and meeting the families in the countryside around Siem Reap.
I would recommend volunteering through Globalteer to anyone - especially the older generation. I knew that I always had the support of a great group of people to help me with any unforeseen problems.

The other volunteers I met were like minded individuals of all ages and nationalities, sharing their stories of travelling and volunteering on the various projects. I especially remember the social evenings whether it was just going out for a meal or taking part in the local trivia quizzes.

To those who are in two minds I would just say "go for it" you will not regret the experience.

Chas Noble, Cambodia volunteer

After 30 years of teaching I decided I needed a big adventure

After 30 years of teaching I decided I needed a big adventure to celebrate my retirement. I booked through Globalteer to work in a wildlife rescue centre in Sulawesi Indonesia. It turned out to be so much more than I imagined, with more blood, sweat, tears, laughter and hope for the future of our planet than I could ever have thought possible.

Working with wildlife, I had hoped to be part of their release to their natural habitat. Sustainable safe habitats are now so difficult to identify that the release of primates who have been stolen from their parents back to the wild is rare.

I worked with sun bears, orangutans and exotic birds. The sun bears captured my heart, and the orangutans amazed me with their problem solving skills.

Carrying fruit and water in 90% humidity was physically challenging, but I am now fitter and more patient with my grandchildren when they, just like the sun bears, decide they are going to stay in the bath for half an hour longer despite your efforts to change the water.

I donated more than a little blood to the mosquito population, and shared laughter and tears with volunteers that will remain in my memories as bright candles in the darkness of one possible future of our planet. A truly remarkable and unforgettable adventure!

Ann Yates, Indonesia Wildlife Sanctuary volunteer

There was a lot of laughter and, when it was time to say goodbye, many tears.

You hear people say that they have had life changing experiences. This was. At 56 and with my own children in their early 20’s I wondered if I would fit in, both at the school but also with the other volunteers. I needn’t have worried.

"The volunteers I met on my first day will, I hope, remain lifelong friends. No matter our ages, we were all sharing an experience that would change us and create amazing memories. There was a lot of laughter and, when it was time to say goodbye, many tears. 

You can’t help but be affected by the Cambodian people. They have so little but give so much. Their smiles and warmth, acceptance of their life and appreciation of even the smallest things are very humbling.
But it was the children at the project that truly won my heart. My role in the school was to assist the teachers by working with the children on pronunciation and to allow them to hear English from a native speaker. I was also lucky enough to be able to prepare and deliver some very easy lessons – something I never expected to do but which I thoroughly enjoyed".

Sally Bateman, Cambodia Community volunteer

That probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t volunteered with Globalteer

I was almost 50 when I volunteered with Globalteer in Cambodia and was a little bit nervous that everyone would be much younger than me. But there was a real range of ages which actually made the whole thing more interesting and probably made it a healthier atmosphere too.  After I had volunteered I decided that I wanted to make some life changes so I gave up work and went travelling and ended up working for Globalteer.  

I had already done quite a bit of teaching with the children in Cambodia so when I moved to Peru with Globalteer I worked in their school there, teaching English to disadvantaged children in a mountain village near Cusco. It was a real challenge but very rewarding. When I came back to England in 2014 I started work as a special educational needs assistant and started training as an Autistic Spectrum Disorder tutor. It’s very different from my old life in Payroll and HR, but much more rewarding. That probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t volunteered with Globalteer all those years ago!

Colin Newstead, Cambodia Community volunteer