Cultural ExchangeExperiencesVolunteer Abroad

Too old to volunteer? Think again!

A lot of people assume that volunteering overseas is the preserve of the young - backpackers, students and gap year travellers. Well we hate to disagree, but, well, we disagree! Sure, we get our fair share of younger people volunteering with Globalteer but we pride ourselves on the great mix of age groups and have hosted volunteers quite literally from 18 to 80. And we love them all!

In reality, age is far less important than ability and attitude. Of course you need to be aware that conditions can be challenging at times – like the humidity in Southeast Asia or the altitude in the Peruvian Andes - but as long as you give yourself time to adapt and don’t try to do too much before you are ready, then anyone in good health with the right skills and motivation can make a great volunteer, regardless of age.

What do our volunteers say?

British volunteer, 58 year-old Nina Talarowski (above) spent five weeks at the Peru Community Project near Cusco, followed by three weeks at the Colombia Children’s Project in Medellin. Although an experienced traveller already, Nina felt that organising her placement through Globalteer gave her more confidence, enabling her to make her first volunteering trip to South America, as she explained.

“Globalteer made the whole process of volunteering simple and genuinely rewarding. They responded promptly to all my questions and provided me with lots of useful information and material about local culture and my role at each project before I set off for South America. It was  also great to know I had  the back-up of their friendly and reliable support network in both Peru and Colombia who were always there should I need them - they even come and meet you personally at the airport when you arrive.

“I really like the Globalteer approach to helping too. Their desire to “make a difference” where it is most needed really comes from the heart. They do a great job of creating awareness but also empowering the people they work with to solve their problems. Working with the local staff and getting to know the parents of the children at the projects really made me feel a part of the community, not just a visitor. I was really made to feel at home. I have already booked my trip back to Peru. I want to see how the children I worked with are progressing. I am sure I’ll have to keep on going back!”  

Retired? Even better...

Retirees make excellent volunteers as they can often spend more time at their project than those with work commitments. Another Brit, retired Chas Noble celebrated his 60th birthday while volunteering with Globalteer in Cambodia. He spent 12 weeks with our Clean Water project in Siem Reap and still had the energy to follow that with 2 weeks at the Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary. Go Chas! He had this to say about the experience:

“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.”

The prefect mix

Having a good mix of volunteers at our projects can work really well for all age groups. As former Globalteer volunteer coordinator Colin Newstead (a spritely 50–something himself) told us,

“I was almost 50 when I volunteered with Globalteer and the range of ages made the whole thing more interesting and probably made it a healthier atmosphere too. Then when I worked for Globalteer at our Cambodia Community Project we once had an Australian lady in her 70s and a young British lad of 18 who were working together at the same project. They made a great team, their skills and personalities complemented each other and they really looked out for each other.”

Younger volunteers also appreciate being able to work with more mature volunteers too. Abi Moffat was 18 when she volunteered with a friend at the Globalteer Community project in Cambodia. She explained why she liked a good mix of age groups at her project:

“I was delighted it wasn’t all youngsters. I loved having the older volunteers around! They gave advice based on past experiences, were a great laugh and often very comforting! Plus the kids reacted very differently to the younger and older volunteers, often the combination was a perfect duo!”

So, if you think you are too old to be a great volunteer, think again. We believe that all our volunteers bring something different to the party. As Erika Oakley, who was 57 when she volunteered with husband Steve at our Colombia and Peru Community projects told us,

“Age is definitely not a barrier – it’s an asset”. Well we feel inclined to agree and after all, 60 is the new 40!

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