Volunteering: a life-changing experience

I spent 4 months volunteering as an English teacher and orientation coordinator in Vang Vieng, Laos (Southeast Asia). There is no doubt that it was a completely life changing experience that I would do all over again!

 

I was working in a non-profit organisation aiming to improve children’s English language skills but also to raise the communities’ awareness about sustainable development. Throughout my gap year, I met travellers with whom provided me with the opportunity to talk, share lunch and dinner meals or even a tooth-brushing. And each and every time, I was brought to talk about my volunteering experience. While mentioning how I felt (and how I still feel today), tears gathered in my eyes, my heart beats faster and it’s almost like I am shaking. The people I barely knew always responded by saying something along the lines of  ‘wow, it really feels like this experience changed your life’. My reply is always just a nod, as words really cannot express that that yes, definitely, it changed my life. I was completely shaken by it all, as if I was struck by lightning. 

 

It opened my eyes to so much that previously I had been ignorant about. I learned that we could be truly happy without thousands of millions in a bank account, and that this lack of what we would call a financial prosperity also helps to dream big and hope for a better future. I understood that my life like many others as a Westerner is a heresy. I am always aiming for the best; the best school, the best university, the best life, when some fight to even get an education at all.

 

It made me see failure from another angle and my want of always getting the best metamorphosed into a wish of being happy and able to enjoy whatever comes to me like a daily gift. I have stopped desiring for more and more and more because why should I, when I already have so much?

 

I now understand what Baloo means when he is content with the bare necessities of life. A rice bowl, some chicken, a song we love, a bird flying away, the elegance of the sun setting, giving and getting smiles, bursts of laughter, the feeling of being part of something we love, or even the wind in my hair; everything can bring happiness in my mind. My constant joy is simple, almost naïve, but at least my heart is constantly thrilled.

 

This mission helped me gain so much confidence. I realised that being young and without experience does not matter when you have the motivation to have a positive impact on the world and on people who need it. I dedicated a few months to other people than myself and yet it was incredibly beneficial for me. I felt like accomplishing something truly significant for the first time in my life. I was the youngest but never was annoyed by this difference. I was here to help, like everybody else. Age, race, religion, doesn’t matter, we can all accomplish so much and learn from anyone. I embraced mankind’s beauty in itself and was enlightened by our willingness to make others’ lives a little better.

 

Volunteering made me realise that every day brings its lot of wonders, like a world rhapsody that we should enjoy as if it were the last.