We’re bombarded with images of a world in crisis. Everywhere we look, people are choosing divisiveness over unity, discrimination over acceptance, and anger over harmony. Hopelessness comes easy, doesn’t it? It’s easy to think, “I’m one person with a small voice and limited resources. What can I do to counter the onslaught of peace-destroying noise in the world?”
We can cultivate peace in the world in many ways. One powerful way is by volunteering abroad.
I discovered the power of volunteering abroad by accident. When I offered to coordinate my district’s Friendship Exchange program for Rotary International, I threw myself into leading a dozen Rotarians on a two-week cultural exchange trip to England. Part of our cultural education involved volunteering at an English sailing-for-the-disabled program. From sunrise to sunset, we worked side-by-side with local volunteers, filling boat after boat with disabled passengers ranging from toddler to elder. We lifted people who couldn’t walk, strapped quadriplegics to their seats, comforted dementia patients, and encouraged the severely autistic as we pushed boats onto the lake.
This single day of volunteering abroad was transformative. I made lifelong friends, saw how to have a positive impact, and separated cultural truth from cliché. Friendship Exchange became my personal roadmap to cultivating world peace. I was hooked.
Here are some valuable lessons I learned about fostering peace in the world through my volunteer experiences abroad.