How to Volunteer as a Family Abroad
Get involved in many ways. Everyone gets the blues when far away from familiar places and people, so resist the urge to hide. Instead, in addition to your regular volunteer work, look for volunteer teaching positions at places such as a music school or radio station.
Find other people with whom you can go out to dinner or invite people to dinner at your house.
Say “hello” to everyone you pass in the street. You’ll be surprised at the people you may meet.
Walk everywhere you can. You’ll meet more people. Your neighbors on the street will begin to greet you. And you will see more and feel great because of all the exercise.
Eat the local food. There was so much good cheap food in Thimphu that we often ate at small restaurants. We enjoyed the street food, too. We came to know the ladies selling momos (Tibetan dumplings) outside the hospital. We’d have a snack from sidewalk vendors selling juice, soda, gum, and peanuts. If you constantly judge whether you will get sick from something new then you are on the wrong adventure. Take care and take antibiotics with you.
Shop at the ubiquitous small stores. All of these stores sell the basics, so go to your corner store and get what you need. On the weekend visit the outdoor vegetable market.
When traveling outside of town, stay in local hotels and guesthouses to experience a country more authentically and inexpensively than in Western-style hotels. Sometimes it will be necessary to hire a car and driver. If you do, take advantage of this as an opportunity to glean travel advice and learn from the driver about his country.
Find the local library and use it. Also, go to the movies. We didn’t know the language, Dzongkha, but the plot was pretty obvious and we learned more about Bhutan by watching movies.
Accept inconveniences and delays, which are a part of life in developing countries. Remind yourself that you are a volunteer and stop expecting that you will change whatever system you are working with. Enjoy getting to know new people with different ways of doing things.
Keep in mind that you moved to a new country to experience its differences and that you will be returning to the world you are more familiar with soon enough; in the meantime, take a deep breath and relax. It will do you no good to complain and it will probably make people uncomfortable.
Follow the regulations and do not expect special privileges. In Bhutan, travel on the roads is restricted to those persons who have permission to be in that section of the country. The rules were written so that the unspoiled countryside you came to see can remain so.