After looking at many opportunities to volunteer abroad in South-East Asia, my search ended when I discovered UBELONG.
The clear and accessible website gave me an initial indication that the organisation was purposeful in its work, and showed me several other aspects which further captured my interest. Firstly, it was appealing to me that UBELONG was operating in only a small number of locations around the world, as I attributed this to that fact that the places had been carefully selected due to both their genuine need for development as well as their suitability for volunteer work. Reading further about the individual programs, as well as arriving in Vang Vieng, only enhanced this view.
I also felt that it was really important for volunteering opportunities to be affordable, as the enthusiasm and effort offered by volunteers should be valued more highly than their money. This was another reason why I chose UBELONG, as it allowed me to participate in an overseas project at a very reasonable price. Despite this, it was clear that nothing had been compromised in terms of the safety or living conditions put in place for volunteers. The mission and principles which are central to the organisation are not obscured by unnecessary structure in the programs, which may otherwise make them less affordable and flexible than they currently are. That is, I felt I had some control over the timing of my placement and the nature of the work I undertook once I’d arrived at the project.
From the moment my application to participate in the immersion program was accepted, my UBELONG mentor remained in close contact with me throughout my experience. With the uncertainty that comes with overseas opportunities such as this, it was great to be able to have queries answered so promptly, both via regular email correspondence and during a scheduled safety meeting, which addressed all of my pre-project questions. The support from my UBELONG mentor, whose expertise in the field of development was extremely valuable, continued whilst I was staying in Vang Vieng.
My experience in Vang Vieng was one from which I felt I was genuinely contributing to a valuable project in the local community. In the process I was able to challenge myself in new tasks from tending animals and construction to teaching English at the local school. One dimension of the placement which I particularly enjoyed was being able to work and socialise with locals and other volunteers from such a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. Personally, I am grateful that through UBELONG I was able to gain real insight into the wider field of development work which I may choose to study in the near future. I am certainly interested in connecting with UBELONG again further down the track.