Story of WFKs

  • About Overseas Voluntary Service
  • WFK Volunteers Abroad
  • Overseas Service Organizations

HOME > Story of WFKs > About Overseas Voluntary Service

About Overseas Voluntary Service

WFK volunteers serve in all corners of the world

Significance and Types of Overseas Voluntary Service

The focus of voluntary service has gradually shifted from domestic locations to under-developed countries around the world.

Voluntary service or service activity refers to activities performed by people who, out of their own desire, seek ways to share their own special skills with people who may need them in order to contribute to social development or technical progress. Such people get deeply involved with local communities to help them solve the difficulties they face.

Overseas voluntary service can be approached in a similar manner. This refers to service activities performed both domestically and internationally with an interest in solving global issues concerning poverty, human rights, the environment and world peace. In detail, overseas voluntary service can be categorized into various programs, such as work camps, WWOOF (Willing Work on Organic Farms), the Israeli Kibbutz system, emergency relief activities and government dispatch of volunteers to overseas locations. Translation and interpretation services in relation to international issues through online channels in Korea are also included in the scope of overseas voluntary service.

※ Ref. – Characteristics of Voluntary Service

Voluntary service is carried out in different formats and with different intentions according to the historical, political, economic and cultural backgrounds of each country. However, there are three important characteristics that are common to all voluntary service activities. The Framework Act on Volunteer Service Activities (2005) established to promote voluntary service stipulates six principles of voluntary service: non-compensation, spontaneity, public interest, non-commercialism, and political and religious neutrality. However, the following three are most frequently referred to as the core characteristics of voluntary service.

  • Non-compensation

    Volunteers perform service activities without wishing for compensation. Such activities may incur a minimum of expenses or monetary support. However, they are exempted from remuneration for work.

  • Spontaneity

    Voluntary service is carried out entirely by the individuals’ free will. Activities performed through coercion are fundamentally not regarded as voluntary service activities.

  • Public Interest

    Voluntary service is an act of contribution to others and society. Many people say they have gained more than they have given. But, fundamentally, voluntary service begins with altruistic intentions.

Approach to Overseas Voluntary Service

As interest in overseas voluntary service has increased as of late, so has the number of people participating in such activities been increasing. Overseas voluntary service can bring about changes and growth not only to individual volunteers, but also their surroundings. Nevertheless, it is difficult for service activities to be performed without a thorough understanding of the objectives to bring positive changes to the volunteers and also to areas where the volunteers perform their activities.

Different people have different reasons for participating in overseas voluntary service activities. The most common are that they can: experience diverse cultures and meet people from different countries, contribute to international society as global citizens by helping eradicate poverty, and achieve self-development from the experiences they gain in the field.

So how should we approach overseas voluntary service to fulfill these goals?

  • - Understanding Difference and Universality

    What volunteers encounter first as they start their overseas voluntary service is unfamiliar people and an unfamiliar culture. People tend to feel comfortable when surrounded by things that are familiar, so volunteers may find everything they encounter and experience during their overseas voluntary service rather uncomfortable. Overseas voluntary service starts from acknowledging and understanding the differences. We can understand one another better when we realize that what appears to be unfamiliar in the beginning is in fact not so different from our own.

  • - Understanding the Global Viewpoint

    To perform service activities abroad it is important for the volunteer to have an open mind to understand different cultures and cultivate harmonious international relations. The volunteers should also continuously pay attention to global issues. It is difficult to solve global issues concerning poverty, human rights and environmental degradation without having a mutual understanding of the interdependence existing between countries and without fostering international dialogue. Volunteers learn about the true meaning of overseas voluntary service by receiving training on how to develop a global mindset and realize the importance of the global community in which everyone must live in harmony.

  • - Understanding the Spirit of Ownership

    People who have experienced voluntary service often say, “I went to teach, but learned more from doing it.” In many cases, people who experience overseas voluntary service for the first time demand many things from others because of their excessive enthusiasm. However, the effects of such an attitude are likely to be minimal, even counterproductive. The ideal attitude volunteers should adopt for the long term is to contribute to strengthening the capacities of local societies so that residents can comprehend the situations they face by themselves and then develop the ways and means for them to solve their problems independently.

Changes through Overseas Voluntary Service

Through overseas voluntary service, the volunteers themselves experience numerous changes. This is an opportunity for them to reflect on themselves and grow further while also building an interest in international issues, universal values and the diversity of humankind. The lessons to be learned through overseas voluntary service are not very different from the approaches to it. That is, by performing service activities based on a correct understanding of overseas voluntary service, individuals can benefit from positive effects, such as building consciousness as a global citizen, recognizing diversity and universality, understanding equality in partnerships, developing a sense of community and achieving personal changes and growth.