Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Spreading Love Through Action—Volunteer Overseas for Free
You care about others, and you are adventuresome. Volunteering overseas appeals to you, but not at the price quoted in the fancy brochures! You and Nelson Santos are kindred spirits. Fortunately, he's blazed a trail for you. With his help, you can volunteer overseas—for free.
Nelson has only had to spend plane fare for the last several years to volunteer in amazing places: Alaska, helping with a donation drive for hospice; Nepal, building schools; Mexico and Thailand, working in dog shelters; Myanmar, attending to the sick and dying in the care of a monastery; and Mexico, caring for children in a refuge for the underprivileged. He spends two weeks to two months in each assignment.
The experiences have challenged him and, in his words, made him "a stronger man." They have also been deeply satisfying as he sees that his putting love into action has changed not only him but also those he has served. To find these opportunities, Nelson had to do a lot of searching on the web. That has led him to creating a path for others. Now with more than 7,000 "members" in his online Facebook community, he is able to assist them in finding volunteer opportunities for free, as well.
In addition through his online service, Nelson prepares those who are interested. He recommends starting to volunteer close to home, on a week-long mission trip, or on a minimal commitment basis while on an overseas vacation, such as at a dog shelter or soup kitchen. These "toe in the water" experiences are often enough to help people take the plunge, dedicating more time in more challenging situations.
Nelson also encourages people to volunteer from their strengths, rather than going hoping to learn a new skill. Carpentry, construction and repair skills, medical expertise, and teaching and training others at various levels are especially needed and of great value to the serving agency. He also reminds new volunteers that the host will provide food and accommodations but not to expect too much. These places willingly share from what little they have, which is not like going back to a hotel at night for a shower and a steak. Volunteers may work harder than they have ever before, but the payment of love is priceless.
Now working full time volunteering and expanding his online assistance to other potential volunteers, Nelson supports his own financial needs only through the sale of his T-shirts. He says, "My purpose us to show kindness, help the needy, and inspire others to do the same." For him volunteering is a lifestyle—not an event. It’s a way to spread love.
If you are interested in supporting Nelson's efforts or you just like really cool T-shirts, check out smilingtimes.com.