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Why volunteer abroad?

First-time overseas volunteers share their questions, apprehensions and scepticism.

Volunteering abroad can be controversial.

Are you doing it more for them or yourself? Are you doing more harm than good? How do you know these people really need your help and are not taking advantage of you?

Is it sustainable? What about creating dependency? Isn’t it better to just send donations than to spend the money going overseas yourself?

And there are needy people at home; shouldn’t you help them first?

Ron and Jia Ling, who met at a volunteers’ briefing at the Singapore International Foundation, had such questions and apprehensions.

Their time spent building and installing biosand water filters in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, was short: just three days.


But along with making the lives of a few villagers a bit better, they found that the experience opened up their world a little more and helped them in their own journeys.

Ron now volunteers regularly at home – Singapore – and abroad, leading teams on trips because he wants to help others have the chance to experience what he did.

Jia Ling took a sabbatical from her work and returned to Cambodia for six months as a WWF volunteer.

The two say they know they’re not doing great things, but they feel themselves growing.

“Before, the question I’d ask was ‘what will I be contributing?’. Now I ask ‘what can I learn?’” Jia Ling says. “I’ve been learning to feel more grateful.”

And Ron, a self-confessed cynic, says sceptics should “just go ahead and do it”.

“Leave the questions for later, because only when you volunteer can you get the answers to all these questions.”

Find out more about the Singapore International Foundation’s volunteer opportunities.

Interview filmed and edited by Vocare Media
Additional footage by The Third World Studio
Produced by Ashima Thomas and Noelle Perera

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