By ELISE FANTIN
Young South Australians are ditching traditional holidays and instead travelling overseas to volunteer in developing countries.
Images of famine ravaged communities and statistics of low life-expectancy, low income and poor education levels are just some of the factors inspiring this new trend.
Former UniSA student and now reception assistant at Radio Adelaide Jordan Archer embarked on a life-changing three week trip to Tanzania in November last year to teach classes at a local school and help organise a sports carnival.
“It’s given me a whole new perspective on life and made me so much more appreciative of just how lucky we are,” he said.
“My main motivation was to just truly experience what life was like for people living in Africa.”
“At the same time, however, it has made me intolerant of people in the West who seem to believe their life is terrible because they don’t have enough money to get drunk on the weekend or because their train ran five minutes late.”
This eye-opening experience has left Mr Archer keen to return to Tanzania.
“I am currently helping to pay for the university tuition of a couple of friends I made over in Tanzania, so it would be great to visit them,” he said.
Celebrating its 20th year of operation, Projects Abroad helps organise volunteering placements and internships overseas and is currently involved in 28 countries.
Projects Abroad Australian office program advisor Lucy Wells said volunteers often participate because of an unselfish idea of going overseas and wanting to help.
“It’s in the media; there are these big stories about different countries that are having so many different problems,” she said.
“The famine in the horn of Africa last year was huge news and people are actually hearing about it, whereas 10, 15, 20 years ago it was a lot harder to be informed.”
“Young people these days are growing up hearing about this [poverty] and they want to know how they can be part of the solution as opposed to just ignoring it.”
Projects Abroad has seen interest in its programs really grow in the last decade and has over 1000 different projects for volunteers to choose from.
“The most popular are teaching English and working with children and then on the internship side [it’s] medical internships,” Ms Wells said.
But safety concerns of overseas postings often prevent people from volunteering.
Before volunteering, Ms Wells recommends students be aware of the risks involved, get their vaccinations, do a bit of research on the culture they are going into and “take common sense along with them”.
Ms Wells encourages people interested in volunteering overseas to take up the challenge.
“I think you would be hard pressed to find a volunteer who didn’t get some kind of personal development out of their project,” she said.
Jordan Archer said those who are unsure about lending a hand overseas should start with a short placement and see how it goes.
“I think there are a lot of people who aren’t interested in volunteering that actually need to take a trip over to Africa and gain some perspective and appreciation for what they have,” he said.
Projects Abroad will be holding an information session in Adelaide on July 3.