Saturday 16 November is International Tolerance Day, so we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the fine work our volunteers have done over the years to promote tolerance and global citizenship around the world.
The UN first established International Tolerance Day back in 1996 in celebration of the adoption of a Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, which ‘among other things… affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human.’
One of the ways the UN suggests to counter intolerance is through education: ‘Greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance and human rights, about other ways of life. Children should be encouraged at home and in school to be open-minded and curious.’
Although when Lattitude volunteers go abroad, their main duties may involve teaching, caring or helping out on other projects, the promotion of tolerance is an important yet often underestimated benefit of spending some time volunteering abroad. For many of the people you will be living and working with, you will be one of the few foreigners they know. Exposing children to people from different countries and cultures from a young age not only encourages them to be accepting of difference, but also often stimulates a curiosity that may lead them to study a foreign language or culture themselves.
And tolerance is not a one-way street. Although few volunteers would class themselves as ‘intolerant’ before their time spent abroad, the experience undoubtedly opens their own minds to different ways of life around the world. Most will have never spent any time living abroad over an extended period of time, and so learning to fit in and deal with unexpected cultural clashes can be a very memorable and gratifying experience indeed. In fact, in the past some of our volunteers have enjoyed their experience so much that they have chosen to stay on in their host countries, some even setting up their own charities.
Even for those who do return home as planned after the completion of their volunteering placement, the deep respect and attachment with their host country and culture often lasts far into the future. Many return to visit their placements, or help to raise funds for their projects from the UK, by running the London marathon or taking part in other sponsored events. Others also maintain an academic interest in their host countries, and we have had many past volunteers go on to study subjects such as Spanish or Japanese studies after completing their placements with us.
And these are not the only avenues your volunteering placement can lead to you down. Past volunteers have often drawn on their experience of volunteering abroad when it comes to deciding on their careers, with international development and jobs in the UK charity sector featuring as popular career choices.
For more information on how you can help bring more tolerance into your life and the lives of others by volunteering abroad, check out the opportunities we offer here.