Joanne & Damian do Raleigh

Exploring life from a different perspective


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So what is this volunteering all about?

Our first blog post should surely be about why, when and how we have become volunteers for Raleigh International. I had been looking into volunteering as part of one of our holidays for a while and always want to travel to experience new places. So when Damian said he felt it was time to take a sabbatical from work and mentioned Raleigh, I jumped at the idea.

The first part of the process was an application with a CV, personal statement and references. Following this we were invited to attend an assessment weekend down in East Sussex. We could only make one of the available sessions, so on a cold weekend at the beginning of December, we started on the path to being a Raleigh volunteer. Armed with a rucksack, tent, a doodle that had to answer certain questions and no mobile phone, we were allocated our groups and the challenges began. Damian and I knew we would be separated, because we will also be separate for the majority of the time we will be in Costa Rica & Nicaragua, due to the nature of our roles. This made it all the more interesting though, as we had no idea how we were both reacting to the activities and gave us a lot to talk about on the way home. I won’t give too much away, incase there are those reading this that are heading for their assessments, but I can honestly say, it was fun. It involved camping in the forest, problem solving, team building, communicating, cooking, medical scenarios, learning, researching, performing, sleeping under tarpaulin and one very cold, muddy pond!

Raleigh Assessment Weekend images of rucksacks and a forest

A week later we heard back that, not only had we both been accepted as part of the huge network of Raleigh volunteers, but obtained the roles we wanted, the countries we requested and the dates we could go. It all still seems very surreal to me and whilst this year is going to be huge with the launch of my new website and preparing for this trip, I couldn’t feel more like I’m living.

The whole application process is very thorough and made me think so hard about what I am going to be taking on. I know the first question will be why volunteer overseas, when we could do it here. The difference for me personally, is that I will be totally immersed in a community and away from my desk, my phone, my routine and my comforts and I want to learn from Raleigh about how to help communities successfully in a sustainable way. For me, to be able to take what I do for a living and use it to showcase a wonderful organisation is a privilege. To be able to draw on all my experiences from our various traveling and adventures in order to be a day to day support for a team working towards a great goal, is going to be so rewarding. To use my age to help young 17 – 24 year olds, who may not all have had the best, or most positive influences in their lives will be humbling. This all sounds cliche I know, but these are all the reasons as to why I am taking on this challenge. I have such an incredible life, with a family, home and career that I love, holidays that take my breath away and whilst I have had my far share of bereavement, life not working out as planned and various difficulties, I have had the love and support of those around me to help me realise that you have to take life on the chin sometimes. If I can share just a fraction of any of that to give something back, it is worth taking my comfortable life off course for a few months. Enjoy the adventure with me.

Jo x

Portrait of Joanne WithersA sketch of Joanne Withers life journey

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