It is one thing to travel abroad, whether for vacation, studying at a university or doing a research project. But it is quite another thing to decide to stay abroad based on what you have experienced and start a project that you are passionate about because you feel that it is what you are meant to do, because you just want to help in whatever way you can.
Ariane Kirtley is an example of one who stayed. As a Fulbright Scholar, Ariane traveled to the pastoral region of the Azawak, Niger’s most remote and abandoned region. In the Azawak, she found people literally dying of thirst because they had no access to water. She had never before witnessed an area with so few resources and infrastructure. As a result of her experience there, Ariane has devoted her life to improving the living conditions of this region by founding Amman Imman: Water is Life, whose mission is to build permanent water sources, thereby significantly improving the lives of 500,000 adults and children among one of the most vulnerable populations in the world.
James Woodward is another such person. In April 2007, he embarked on a journey around the world with a friend, James Harrison, with the simple aim of seeing as much of the world as possible in four months. At the time, the two of them had been coordinating a homeless hostel in Kings Cross, Sydney, for three years and had loved every minute of it, so they decided to do six weeks of volunteering at a few orphanages in Africa. They spent the time at St. Otiep’s orphanage in Kayole, a slum of the area surrounding Nairobi, where they helped teach the children and used the money they had planned for future traveling to buy some resources that the orphanage was lacking. But after they returned to Australia, they learned that the director of the orphanage had kicked the children out onto the streets. Shocked, they moved the children to small village about an hour out of Nairobi called Mang’u, where they rented a small house and started the Familia Moja Children’s Centre. Now, their organization, Kickstart Kids International, runs several programs in Africa and aims to enable kids from advantaged countries to help “kickstart” the lives of kids who effectively have nothing.
Have other stories to share about cross-cultural volunteers like these? We’re still searching for people, particularly in Australia and Europe! Please let us know at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.