Many people living in the U.S. have found ways to give back to their communities through schools, religious groups and any number of charitable organizations. But some have had the opportunity to take these activities beyond their local communities and reach other corners of the world.
The Florida Baptist Witness reports that some Florida teens have found the opportunity to spend time working with some of the most under-privileged children in Latin America. One charitable group operates a malnutrition center that offers students a chance to work directly with needy children in Guatemala.
The center, established in the nation's capital of San Juan, gives the Florida volunteers the chance to interact with people in need on a personal level. Exposed to very real hardship and poverty, usually for the first time, volunteers are affected as much as the communities they are there to help.
"I can say that there was never a day when I was in my comfort zone," Anda Scott, a student at The Baptist College of Florida, told the Witness. "The experience made me grow as a person."
Almost any internship or volunteer experience will leave an impact of some kind. But the time spent in Guatemala proved to be a transformative experience for many of the participants.
"My dream some day is to open an orphanage, so this was a great experience working with children," Scott explained.
Meanwhile, another participant found herself bonding closely with the other people on her trip.
"All of us interns became very good friends," she explained. "In fact, three of them were at my house for Thanksgiving for our own Guatamalan family reunion."
As young people in the U.S. express greater interest in having more meaningful travel experiences and making a lasting impact abroad, many cultural exchange organizations have expanded their offerings for opportunities to volunteer abroad.
These volunteers are having a major impact as well. The Center for Social Development projects that U.S. volunteers abroad contribute nearly $3-billion-worth of work to the countries they visit.
Whichever method they choose to pursue volunteer work abroad, these volunteers are seeing the benefits of engaging in potentially life-changing opportunities.