Notification pings, group chats, emails – these days we're bombarded by so much negative information that the challenges facing the modern world can feel overwhelming. We're left wondering how we could even begin to make a positive difference to the world.
That's not to say we haven't tried to help. After all, we did sign that petition and what about that disapproving tweet in response to a certain politician's misguided remarks. If we're honest though, there's something about tapping on a screen from the comfort of our couch that doesn't quite meet our desire to actually do something positive. And right now, the last thing we want to do is spend more time on our phones scrolling through social media feeds or reading the news.
But there is a way to break the cycle.
We can all do something practical to make a small but measurable difference to our planet and society at large. Every day thousands of young people put down their smartphones and start to create the change they want to see in the world.
But taking that first step is often the biggest challenge.
That's where organisations like Raleigh International come in. For over 30 years they've been offering overseas volunteer opportunities for young people who really want to do something to make a difference in the world.
These volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds and countries. They form an international team, committed to tackling some of the world's most challenging development issues. They live and work side by side with members of rural communities in Nicaragua & Costa Rica, Tanzania, Nepal and Malaysian Borneo.
Arthur, 18, was someone who jumped at this opportunity.
“After reading about Raleigh I liked the first impression of it so much…it sounded so
interesting that I didn't even consider another option,” he says.
Arthur spent ten weeks as a Raleigh International volunteer in Costa Rica as well as
Nicaragua, which is one of the least developed countries in the Americas with one of the world's highest levels of income inequality.
“The purpose of this project was to provide houses in the community with clean drinking water,” Arthur explains.
Over 2 million people in Nicaragua lack access to adequate sanitation while over 800,000 people don't have access to safe water. This is especially true in the country's rural communities, which is why Raleigh volunteers' work focuses on these areas. Not only do rural communities have the greatest need, but they also have the willingness to engage in sustainable development.
“Our work involved building a water tank and digging kilometres of trenches...I worked alongside my fellow Raleigh teammates and many of the community members,” says Arthur.
Raleigh volunteers work on a wide variety of projects: from reforestation in
Tanzania to installing clean water systems in Nepal; from building bridges in Borneo to implementing community resilience initiatives in Nicaragua. It also means Raleigh volunteers and their families can be confident that every local community has requested the presence of volunteers.
“We all worked tirelessly together to ensure the project was a success,” says Arthur.
It's this willingness and way of working – in teams and in partnership – that can really make a huge difference in a project's lasting impact in communities like the one in Nicaragua that had never had access to running water before.
“This is life changing for them as previously they had to walk an hour to get water. Now they have it in their own homes,” Arthur explains. “This allows them to divert their energy towards other areas of their lives which will significantly improve their own standard of living.”
If you – or someone you know – would like to follow in Arthur's footsteps, Raleigh is currently recruiting new volunteers for its Expeditions departing in June and July 2017.
Wherever you live, as long as you are 17-24 years old (or 25-75 years old for Volunteer Manager roles), have a valid passport, and a passion to create lasting, positive change, a Raleigh Expedition could be the way for you to overcome feelings of powerlessness and turn them into real action with lasting results.
The benefits of volunteering with Raleigh International don't just stop at the communities.
Raleigh also provides volunteers with its renowned hands-on leadership training, developed through 30 years of experience running Expeditions overseas, and designed to effect positive changes within volunteers as well.
“Raleigh is a place where you can make mistakes, learn from them, and take something positive out of it. It's the perfect environment to improve your personality and skills”, Arthur tells us.
Raleigh also helps young people develop with a challenging adventure trek through stunning terrain, much of which can only be reached on foot, and is totally away from tourist trails.
Volunteers take turns leading the trek, carry their own kit and food, and are guided by experienced trek leaders. Volunteers develop their resilience, leadership, and teamwork capabilities, and become further inspired to create positive change - long after they return home.
“It's vital to improve your leadership skills…we'll all enter the workplace and be expected to lead and make decisions and the trek gives you invaluable experience in this. You find out what you're made of when you're walking 20km per day with a heavy weight on your back in the searing heat, having to think not only of yourself, but the rest of your team,” says Arthur.
“It helps us develop into strong, effective leaders who will be able to return to our communities and make positive contributions there in the future.”
Multiply this across the world and something amazing starts to happen. You get a worldwide movement for change that creates a much broader, lasting impact.
So, if you're racking your brains for a way to really make an impact this year, make your summer vacation meaningful and join a Raleigh Expedition.
Know someone else who would be interested?
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This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Raleigh International.