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Photo: dheuer

Yes, volunteering makes you feel good. Yes, you learn about other people. But there are dozens of other reasons people volunteer, too.

And here are 20 from Matador members who are experienced volunteers.

1. Lola Akinmade, Matador Goods Editor

“I volunteer because ‘to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.’ — Luke 12:48. I honestly don’t know how to live outside of giving and sharing, and wouldn’t want to.”

Lola volunteers as a photojournalist with both World Hope International, documenting the organization’s projects in countries such as Nicaragua and Cambodia, and C.H.I.E.F, an NGO based in Lagos, Nigeria that promotes grassroots health development, HIV/AIDS awareness, and the empowerment of women.

Her church in Stockholm recently started a monthly food kitchen for the city’s homeless, and she hopes to work a lot more with them as well.

2. Richard Stupart, Matador Intern

“I volunteer because I find something incredibly satisfying about acting in a way that is consistent with my principles. Being able to say I changed something in the world, in the lives of others, gives meaning to my being here beyond simply looking after myself. For me, it changes my life from being purely self-centered to being something with meaning for others, too.”

Richard volunteered for South African Schools Debating, where he coached school kids and taught them critical thinking, working through issues in their communities, and learning to express their own opinions articulately on issues that concern them.

3. Leigh Shulman, Matador Life Editor

“I volunteer because it takes me out of my daily life. Because I have expertise that is easy for me to teach and yet makes a big difference to those I teach. Because it reminds me how lucky I am. Because I have been given so much in life and believe it’s important to give as well.”

Leigh volunteers at a local church in Salta, Argentina, serving lunch to school children and helping kids with their English homework.

4. Juliane Huang, Matador contributing editor

“I volunteer because it continuously teaches me something new about people, about cooperation, about compassion, and about myself. In helping others, I am reminded that we are all in this together and we need to remember to support each other. Life has so much to offer if we remember look beyond ourselves.”

Juliane volunteers at the Berkeley Free Clinic.

5. Candice Walsh, Matador Associate Editor

“I volunteer because I love my city and I need to give back something to it other than tax dollars. Also, my soul needs redemption.”

“I volunteer because I love my city and I need to give back something to it other than tax dollars. Also, my soul needs redemption.”- Candice Walsh

Candice volunteers with Girl Guides of Canada and Heavenly Creatures, an animal rescue organization.

6. Abbie Mood, Matador Intern

“I volunteer because I want to not just see the world, but make a difference in it.”

Abbie has volunteered at United Planet.

6. Kate Sedgwick, Matador Nights Co-Editor

“I volunteer because I have the time. I recognize that time is something I can give, if not money. I regret that I never volunteered before I left the U.S. I don’t know that I make a big difference in the lives of the kids that I work with, but I do know that I can take some pressure off of those that are able to devote more time. Sometimes that’s just got to be enough.”

Kate volunteers at Ojo de Pez and Conviven in Buenos Aires.

7. Matt Scott, Matador Intern

“I volunteer because… it often lets me get closer to a community, the people and the region- I discover so much more than simply having travelled through. Also, on the most basic level, it’s nice to feel I’ve achieved something positive with my day- rather than simply add to the profits of the Fat Cats I usually work for.”

Matt has volunteered with Share Centre Ireland, Nightingales Children’s Project,
Sudan Volunteer Programme, Bagaduish Holiday Centre, and in Appalachian Trail conservancy work.

8. Heather Knight, Member

“I volunteer because: 1) I truly like helping people. 2) I feel called to volunteer and share my talents and time with others. 3) I enjoy meeting different people from different backgrounds and cultures while volunteering. 4) I like having my comfort zone stretched and expanded. 5) It’s a lot of fun!

Heather plans to volunteer while on a RTW starting this month. Home for Hope in India and Habitat For Humanity in Thailand are on her list so far.

9. Pamm McFadden, Member

“I volunteer to learn something new or to acquire a skill that I lacked. I couldn’t go out and get a job to learn that skill, but I could volunteer and learn it.”

Pamm has volunteered in a hospital, for the local Department of Social Services, for local, national and international solar organizations, the local District Attorney’s office as an investigator, a conference organizer, and a knitter – knitting sweaters for every child in an orphanage outside of Lhasa, Tibet.

10. Nola Lee Kelsey, Member

Photo: mikebaird

“I volunteer because I can’t handle seeing any animal suffering as if no one cares and because it makes me feel alive.”

Nola has volunteered with Care for Dogs in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

11. Barb Hautanen, Member

“I volunteer because I want to demonstrate to individuals around the world that someone from ‘way over there’ does care about them, that all Americans are not like those seen on TV or at their country’s tourist destinations. Now, when I hear about about war, political situations, natural disasters, crime, and more in foreign countries, I can picture faces and remember names of people living in those countries.”

Barb has volunteered with Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center in Sulawesi, Indonesia and African Impact.

12. Hal Amen, Matador Trips Co-Editor


“I volunteer because I’ve seen firsthand people living in plywood shacks in Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico, Bolivia and people playing golf on a Tuesday at a Beverly Hills Country Club, the only difference between them being where they were born. The system obviously doesn’t work, so we have to.”

Hal has volunteered with Sustainable Bolivia and Asociacion Mapu.

13. Susan Greenwood, Matador writer

“I volunteer because I feel it is part of being a human being. I think we are designed to help one another. Help comes in many forms, and I believe that volunteering is one way to accomplish what we are supposed to accomplish in this lifetime. Bottom line, it just feels good inside to give unconditionally.”

Susan has volunteered for the American Diabetes Association, Girls on the Run, ( and City of Hope’s breast cancer research initiatives.

14. Jamie L. Worms, Member

“I volunteer not so much to help others, but to gain some perspective about my own life. But in the end, I suppose I accomplish both.”

Jamie has volunteered with Catalytic Communities, CIACAC, and Calle.

15. Kelsey Gryniewicz, Member

“I volunteer because I can. It’s as simple as that. If you could do something to help the world around you, why wouldn’t you?”

Kelsey volunteers with AIDE at Casa Luz in Costa Rica.

16. Sheethal Shobowale, Member

“I volunteer because I enjoy helping people. Besides, it is professionally and personally fulfilling and great karma!”

Sheethal volunteers with the microloan organization, KIVA.

17. Melanie Campbell, Member

“I volunteer for experience to put on my resume.”

Melanie has volunteered at St. Paul’s College, a school for children and teens with disabilties, and at a primary school working with refugee children.

18. Jane Stanfield, Member

“I volunteer because I always want to learn something new.”

Jane volunteers with Earthwatch.

19. Kirsty Henderson, Member

“I volunteer because it lets me get involved in a community in a way I would never get to if I were just passing through as a traveler. It also keeps me fit and allows me to save money. Volunteering for weeks or months at a time could allow you to live more cheaply than you would at home.”

Kirsty volunteers with Hands on Disaster Response.

20. Julie Schwietert, Matador’s Managing Editor

“I volunteer because I need to feel I can take meaningful action. Until the election of President Obama, I felt like the traditional ways for people to be involved in resolving social problems had been usurped. Volunteering was one way to still make a difference and will always remain one way to exercise your rights, responsibilities, and power.”

Julie has volunteered with the Culinary Corps, Project Liberty, and has participated in virtual voluntourism with JobAngels.

Community Connection:

If you’d like to get started volunteering, but aren’t quite sure how, our Volunteering Abroad Focus Page offers lots of useful resources.

Activism + Politics


About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • CeRusso

    Sometimes I just think about getting up and volunteering abroad. Some where far from my life and that truly needs help. Just forget about everything and go. Even thought it’s not an option right now, perhaps one day I will. Maybe with the help of Matador ;-).

  • Alyssa

    Great idea to inspire the masses, Julie. I got a lot out of hearing people’s reasons!

  • Ilie Paschevici

    Thanx a lot Julie. Now i definetly will go somewhere to volunteer. Can someboby tell me where i can go volunteering without paying an enormous amount of money? Thank you.

  • N. Chrystine Olson

    I share Lolo’s philosophy. I volunteer on wildlife and conservation projects here and abroad because I made a generous living for many years as an ecologist. I have extensive training and expertise that is needed in other countries without our wealth and opportunities. Working on endangered species projects in Swaziland felt comfortable and allowed me to understand a country and it’s people so much more intimately than just passing through.

  • Sheethal Shobowale

    @CeRusso – Do it! It’s a life changing experience. I just came back from working as a Kiva Fellow in Peru and Bolivia and I can’t tell you all the things I learned in my work and just being around people who have so much less than I do.

    Check out the South American Volunteer experience blog – La Vida Idealist for stories from volunteers like me in South America. People are doing wonderful things and have great tips to get started.


  • Karen Meiring

    Hi Everybody,
    I work for a volunteer organization on the Wild Coast in South Africa, and I want to say thank you to all of you who take your time to volunteer. We couldn’t make an incredible difference in peoples’ lives without you!
    Keep it up – have a wonderful day!!!

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  • benjamin

    im ready and willing to leave to any location need be to help with emergency diasasters, people in need. im just having trouble finding the right orginazation to join up with. i have little money but a big heart and nothing to loose and tons to gain! anybody with any information on asap volunteer work id love to hear from you! thanks

  • simar

    hi Julie, this is a trained specialist in dealing with children and adults with disability…
    i would be very very happy if u could help me and tell me more about ur expereinces and on how i can also help serve and give back to my country… i would love to do extra voluntree work if i can to add to my task of spreading love and being with chidren, i would love to voluntree and know more about different cultural issues that children or a person with special abilities works or lives or studies ,plays games and stuff..please let me know.. thanking you..

  • BA

    I’ve been volunteering for years and it’s given me some of the best experiences all over the world.

    I do, however, think we need to be careful and consider how our volunteering affects those who are on the receiving end. It’s not always what we think. Volunteering short-term with kids especially can be extremely damaging, as kids will make attachments and then never see those people again.

    This article seems to illustrate this point well:

    It really makes me wonder how much I volunteer for myself! Again, I’ve loved what I’ve done, which ranges from teaching technical skills to construction, farming, teaching, and more, but I often wonder what it looks like from their side.

    This site is also worth a mention:
    They’re accepting true travel stories (especially from volunteers, I read somewhere) from all over the world. I know that in my volunteering abroad I had some pretty crazy experiences!

    Thanks for posting where each person has volunteered–very helpful in an article like this.

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  • Jess

    I to am very interested in Volunteering. I have a lot of time and experience to share, just not so much money. If anyone could point me in the direction of an organization that could help me accomplish this I would be much appreciated. I have experience in volunteering before, and have spoke english my entire life. Thank you for this information and awesome site!


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