We asked recently returned Australian volunteers to share what surprised them most about the country where they volunteered, and what they’ve missed most since returning home.
Here’s what they had to say.
What surprised you most about the country where you volunteered?
“I recently returned from a placement in Timor-Leste. I found my time there to be life-changing. Some of the best things about Timor-Leste are the gorgeous natural features of the countryside, and beautiful people that you encounter there. I didn't expect to feel so comfortable and accepted and at home there.” – Kimberly, Timor-Leste
“Most events and special occasions in Timor tend to have an element of ceremony and are much more formal (and lengthy) than Australia. Timorese also love to give speeches!” – Kate, Timor-Leste
“Better access to services and small luxuries than expected.” – Emma, Solomon Islands
“The ability of all ages to share fun and laughter.” – Anke & Andrew, Solomon Islands
Papua New Guinea
“I completed two assignments in Papua New Guinea. The second absolutely stunned me with the passion of my colleagues to improve the health status of their local communities, and working without pay for months not knowing if or when international funders would back their work. One of the chosen tasks was to make reusable menstrual hygiene products, and the sense of sheer pride when this was achieved was unbelievable.” – Des, Papua New Guinea
“Most surprising was the gap between people that drive expensive cars and own expensive houses to people who still virtually hunt and gather and need little to survive. I was also extremely surprised by the enthusiasm that developed when your inputs become respected, and how fast they can adapt ideas using limited resources.” – Grant, Indonesia
What have you missed most about the country since returning home?
“My local friends really supported me and included me as part of their family while I was there, which helped me navigate life in Timor. I really miss spending time with them and doing simple things like going to the beach, exploring different parts of Dili or bargaining at the second-hand markets.” – Kate, Timor-Leste
“I miss the spectacular sunrises and sunsets very much.” – Kimberly, Timor-Leste
“The diving, tropical weather and the Solomon Islands people. The Solomon Islands people have a beautiful meeting etiquette in their listening and paying respect to contributions by allowing for silence and reflection. I miss this in my workplace on a daily basis!” – Emma, Solomon Islands
“This would be a long, long list. But right at the top are: The long handshakes. The singing. And the enthusiastic greetings from our students.” – Anke and Andrew, Solomon Islands
Papua New Guinea
“My colleagues’ strong sense of determination, to make events and education happen with massive lack of resources, their resilience, sense of humour and appreciation of the basic things in life. The utter pride of communities/schools celebrations when they understand and commit to making healthy improvements in their village and personal lifestyle.” – Des, Papua New Guinea
“The respect and genuine friendships from the people who are always happy and helped the project thrive. To see the project kicking goals and progressing wonderfully without me.” – Grant, Indonesia
What would you like others to know about the country where you volunteered? Share your own insights via the RAVN LinkedIn Group