Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. You are taking the time to share your knowledge and skills while making a difference that really counts, however small or big it may seem. Depending on where you go and what you do, you may even find a potential career. The list below should help you begin your search.
How to Select a Volunteer Program
How much time are you willing to devote to the project? Programs can range anywhere from 2-4 weeks up to 2 years.
What region or country are you interested in? Would you like to volunteer in a developing nation or industrialized nation? In an urban city or rural village?
What skills or strengths can you offer on a volunteer program? What type of project are you hoping to work on (for example — do you want to help build a school? Provide medical care to underserved populations? Teach English to locals?) Think about the type of work you hope to contribute and asks yourself what skills may be necessary to make sure there is a good fit.
Depending on the nature of your volunteer project, knowledge of the local language may be required. The more verbal interaction with locals the project involves, the more likely that you will need to have basic language skills.
Volunteering is not without expenses. Many volunteer based organizations operate on very limited funds and resources, and therefore are unable to financially support their volunteers. The program fee offsets the costs of your basic expenses (housing, food, local transportation, etc) and sometimes helps to support the local on-site project director. Be sure to understand exactly what is included in the program fee. If there is no program fee, it may mean that you are responsible for your housing and meals independently.
Helpful Volunteer-Seeking Websites
- Volunteer Abroad: Searchable database of international volunteer opportunities
- The Peace Corps: The Peace Corps is a U.S. government agency. Volunteers spend two years, with a three month training period in the country they are assigned to. There are certain educational and work requirements for a perspective volunteer.
- Council on International Educational Exchanges (CIEE): Offers over 900 volunteer projects in over 25 countries in Africa, Europe, Latin America, Asia and North America. The projects last from 2-4 weeks and are divided into four types: Archaeology, Construction and Renovation, Nature Conservation and Social Service. Also offers the Teach in China program where participants spend 5-10 months teaching English in a Chinese school.
- WorldTeach: Volunteer teaching positions, from 6 months to 1 year, in China, Honduras, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Namibia, Mexico and South Africa.
- Global Route: Teaching intern positions available for 10-12 weeks in remote rural village.
- Cross Cultural Solutions: Volunteer in a variety of community development projects for 3 or more weeks in India, Africa or Latin America.
- Visions in Action: Volunteer placements in five African countries and Mexico of either 6-month or one year in the fields of health clinics, research institutions, community groups, news organizations, etc.
- International Volunteer: Programs Association Involved in international volunteer and internship exchanges. The website also includes an extensive listing of other sites on volunteering abroad, publications, funding/scholarships, international jobs and other resources.
- Transitions Abroad: This monthly magazine is great for the independent traveler providing personal accounts of experiences overseas, and an extensive collection of resources for working and living abroad and program listings for studying abroad. It includes some job listings and links to other great websites.
- United Nations Volunteers: The website has a great deal of information about UN Volunteer projects worldwide.