The hard side of volunteering abroad

Volunteer life can be challenging. No, it WILL be challenging. Unforeseen obstacles will arise, like problems with other volunteers or even those people waiting back at home. For some, it can be overwhelming to be away from home in a new environment experiencing different attitudes, cultures and religions. Loneliness and illness can also be enough to send a volunteer looking for an early way to get back to more familiar surroundings.

I have seen personal differences among volunteers cause insults, bullying and arguments that in the worst cases cause volunteers to completely stop communicating with one another. Often the organization does not step in to resolve the conflicts, so an unpleasant environment develops and prevails.

I want to sleep in my own bed

During my stay at the Vervet Monkey Foundation, I had a huge argument with my boyfriend and he broke up with me. I was crushed and people came over to check on me when I could not stop crying.

There was no internet where I slept, so contact with the outside world was hard, and I struggled to find a way to quiet my own thoughts: What do they think of me? Are they talking about me? Do they take my feelings seriously or just think I’m overreacting?

I went over to three women was close to and asked for a hug – because I really needed one. It was nice to feel their warmth. They listened to my feelings and it helped me feel better, because human contact means a lot to me. By the third day, they automatically came over to give me a hug. I felt loved and it helped me get back to work.

There is no doubt that it is hard to be away from home, even for someone like me who has volunteered many times before. I have faced many different types of challenges, obstacles and problems. In the end, I can only look to my heart, stand up, dust myself off and fight for what I believe in. My passion heals me.

TIPS for those hard days

The best advice is to simply treat others the way you would like to be treated. Don’t let hurts or slights you have experienced cause you to harm others.

Around-the-clock advice

If you need help resolving a conflict, or just need to talk, please email at

I’m here for you if you need me.