Volunteering Abroad: A Life Altering Decision


La Bib


 In October 2012, my husband and I made what will quite possibly be a life altering decision. We decided to volunteer abroad.

There were a whole host of reasons behind it, but one of them was that it was something we both wanted to do. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum in most things, but when it comes to travelling, we tend to find common ground.

After we made the decision to go, things moved pretty fast. We decided on South America and within weeks found the perfect place. We applied, and were accepted, and while we were on holiday in Tenerife in November, we booked our flight tickets for Ecuador.

It’s been a whirlwind.

I’m quitting my day job in February (YAY!). We are giving up our rented house, putting all of our stuff in storage, and flying to Ecuador on February 24th for three months.

We will be working with a fantastic NGO, Fundacion Arte Del Mundo, which promotes literacy and arts. In their own words, as per their website:

In a small country, in a small town near the middle of the world surrounded by volcanoes and a landscape of spectacular beauty, a small group of people are working to promote literacy and the arts. The foundation’s emphasis is on sharing the love of books and the arts with the children and adults of  Baños through utilizing the creativity and talents of volunteers from all over the world.

We will be working mostly with children between 6 to 11 years old, who have nowhere safe to go when the school’s finished and their parents are at work. They come to the foundation, affectionately known throughout the town as La Bib, and there they are encouraged to enjoy learning.

It’s a big decision for us, because we will be giving up a fairly secure life and regular income and go forth towards uncertain future.

I haven’t done anything so liberating in a long while.  

When my mind calms down for a few moments in-between worrying about just how much stuff needs to get done before we leave, I’m thrilled by the prospect of going. There is slight fear of course, since the future is full of unknown, but then I remember that future is always unknown. There are times when you just have to take a risk, and follow  your instinct. But despite the obvious uncertainty, I’m not actually scared, because I have absolute confidence that no matter what, I will manage.

My security net is not a particular job or a house or a bank account. My security net is me – and that’s a pretty good place to be. 

I’m not being totally altruistic here either. I want to contribute to the world in my own way, and I want to do my part in promoting literacy and arts too. But I also believe that when you help others, you inevitably end up helping yourself.

As Mahatma Gandhi said:

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

While I don’t need to find myself, I believe that being in the service of others gives you a new, different perspective. It makes you see the world with new eyes. It makes you notice things you may otherwise be oblivious to.

I’m really excited to do this to help others, but also for myself. I hope  that life won’t be exactly the same after this experience because something like this should result in growth and change. That was one of the reasons I refused to take a sabbatical from my job, and resigned instead. I don’t want to return to the same lifestyle, same routine, same people. That would defeat the object of this experience. No, the uncertainty is very much a part of this because unless you put yourself in a position where nothing is sure, you can’t open yourself up to as yet unknown opportunities or directions. 

I believe wholeheartedly that this will be an enriching life experience for both of us, and we are open to wherever it may lead.  


18 Responses to “Volunteering Abroad: A Life Altering Decision”

  1. Sarah January 31, 2013 at 06:40 # Reply

    WOW! It sounds really interesting. Will you keep Kaizen Journaling website going? I’m being selfish and hoping you won’t totally disappear!

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 07:59 # Reply


      Yes, Kaizen Journaling will absolutely continue :-) It’s here to say. If you look at the course schedule, I’m doing courses in March and April as well. I might have a couple of weeks of limited access while I get settled, but that’s about it.

      But there will be articles, and there will be classes, and who knows what else!

  2. Nathan Ohren January 31, 2013 at 08:10 # Reply

    Dolly, I’m really excited for (AND PROUD OF) you. Can’t wait to hear about your insights and adventures. Blessings be with you!

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 07:59 # Reply


      Thank you. I appreciate the support and the encouragement.

  3. Isabel January 31, 2013 at 09:29 # Reply

    Hi Dolly, what a brave and courageous thing to do. I wish you all the Best and that it is going to be a very enriching beautiful experience for you. Good Luck y Buena Suerte!!

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 07:59 # Reply


      Thank you so much for your kind wishes. I appreciate it :-)

  4. Joey January 31, 2013 at 10:34 # Reply

    Proud of you, Dolly! Have a great time, I know it will be a brilliant experience for both of you :)

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 07:59 # Reply


      Thanks :-) Yes, definitely hoping for a brilliant experience.

  5. Savannah January 31, 2013 at 20:48 # Reply

    Hi Dolly! This sounds so extraordinary. If I’m interested, what do I do? How do I get involved in this type of thing?

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 08:01 # Reply


      There will be an article here on 11th of Feb about How to decide where to go. But meanwhile, I would suggest you first think about what causes particularly interest you, because if you are helping out where your passion is, it will be easier to bear the “inconveniences”

      Think about your financial situation, what you can do and where you can go. If you are a student, then it’s even easier. If you are a bill-paying adult, you may need bit more considerations. But google is your friend :-) If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to email me.

  6. Yvonne Root January 31, 2013 at 21:10 # Reply

    This is quite an interesting adventure, Dolly. And as you’ve said, your time in South America will be just the start.

    It will be quite fun to watch. Because you are going to keep us posted, right?

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 08:02 # Reply


      Thanks :-) I am absolutely going to keep you posted. There will be pictures and everything!

  7. Carol January 31, 2013 at 21:41 # Reply

    Dolly, you and your husband are absolutely amazing! What courage you have to leave everything behind to help others. I hope you’ll be able to blog about your adventure as it happens. If not, what stories you’ll be able to tell later! And I can only imagine what memories your journals will contain.

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 08:03 # Reply

      Hi Carol,

      Thank you! Not so much courage as craziness :P

      Yes, I will be blogging (to the extent how it can fit in with this blog) and Facebooking (a lot more) about the experience!!

  8. Doug E February 1, 2013 at 03:04 # Reply

    Good luck, Dolly!! I’ll miss Kaizen Journal — I assume it will at least be on hiatus, if not permanently ending during your experience — but I’m happy for your adventure. Sometme, I hope you can tell us how it went…

    • Dolly Garland February 1, 2013 at 08:04 # Reply

      Hi Doug,

      I sure hope you won’t miss Kaizen Journal, because it will be here and active. I have no intention of putting breaks on it, so there will be courses, articles and whatever else :-)

      I may take a bit longer than usual in responding to comments and emails etc. but that’s about it.


  1. How To Decide Where To Volunteer Abroad | Kaizen Journaling - February 11, 2013

    […] October 2012, my husband and I made a decision that we want to go volunteer abroad in a few months’ time. The decision came suddenly, but the root was there before, in both our […]

  2. The Magic of Moleskine | Kaizen Journaling - March 11, 2013

    […] for our trip to Ecuador, I bought a moleskine for him. On our first day here, he started using it, and said, “I only […]

Leave a Reply

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On PinterestVisit Us On LinkedinVisit Us On Google Plus