See the World and Make it a Better: A Guide to Volunteering Abroad

volunteering abroad

Have you ever felt called to help the people of another continent or in a far off land? Maybe you simply want to travel but would like to do your part in making the world a better place?

If this is the case, you may want to consider volunteer and travel opportunities. When most people hear volunteer travel, they automatically think of the Peace Corps. and the long-term commitment required. However, this isn’t your only option!

We’re going to take a look at several ways you can see the world while helping your fellow human and how to decide which program might be right for you! 

Keep reading for more information! 

Interests, Commitment, and Length of Stay

Before deciding to volunteer abroad, you will need to make a few considerations. Many programs will look at the special skills you possess and your education level. While some places literally need helping hands, others may need doctors, nurses, or engineers. 

If you’ve been to school or are certified in any of specialty area of work, you may have an advantage over others who are less qualified. This does not mean that you must have attended college or that you are required to have certain skills—they just may be more helpful in certain areas of the world. 

The next consideration you must make is how committed you are to the cause you are working with. Typically, areas that need volunteers the most are not your typical tourist destinations. 

This may mean a lack of clean water, electricity, or other amenities you are used to at home. 

Additionally, the length of your stay is quite important. Some people volunteer abroad for a week, while others choose to stay for months or years. No matter how long you choose to stay, your goal is to make a difference! 

Narrowing Volunteer and Travel Destinations

As mentioned, many of the places that are in need of volunteers are not common travel destinations. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to explore areas that are of high interest to you! 

A popular way for native English speakers to see Eastern Europe is to volunteer as a language teacher. This teaching opportunity is available across almost every area you can think of, with some offering a small stipend to live. 

Even the most fearless travelers may experience culture shock when arriving in an area that is completely different from home. Some people may thrive on this while it may put others into a panic. 

If you have not had the opportunity to travel much or experience an area similar to that of which you wish to volunteer, it would be beneficial to plan a visit before your longterm stay. Because this initial trip isn’t always possible, be sure to do plenty of research—the fewer surprises, the better.

Determining Costs

If you have ever planned a vacation or looked at flights, you know it is not cheap to travel. Some programs may help cover the cost of living expenses, food, or room and board, but you will usually be responsible for how you arrive. 

When you are serious about travel, volunteering, or both, there is usually little that can get in the way of this dream. Once you have determined that volunteer and travel is the right combination for you, your best bet is to find a program that suits your needs.

Choosing the right volunteer program ahead of time will allow you to plan for transportation costs and prepare for extra expenses like excursions to interesting cities and guided activities. 

Don’t Get Scammed

The saying ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ is one you should live by. 

It is common for volunteering programs to cost money, but this money typically helps cover some of your food and living expenses. It is not common for a company to cover ALL expenses and expect only a few days of work.

When choosing to volunteer abroad, you are basically exchanging goods (food, accommodations, etc.) for services (whatever help you provide). A company that promises very little work, five-star hotels, and the best dining is probably not helping the people in the area, no matter how many selfies you get to take with impoverished children.

Other Noteworthy Thoughts

Whether your goal is primarily to help people or to travel the world, your safety should be of utmost concern. Always have a secondary plan to get home if the opportunity isn’t as altruistic as you believed. 

If you are driven to help people, yet your funds seem to be lacking, consider working with a more local non-profit that is known for its outreach abroad. Often, you will find that they offer opportunities to travel and work in the area that they help. 

Most people automatically think of churches and mission trips when this option is mentioned, however, other clubs and organizations are known to do the same. These may include Rotary Clubs, environmental organizations, and even certain political parties. 

Should you want a more permanent move to a certain area, consider finding paid work opportunities or asking your company for a transfer. When this happens, you will have help finding a place to live, steady income, and the ability to volunteer as much as you’d like. 

This option isn’t for everyone, but it can be an eye-opening experience and give you the ability to help hundreds of people while still exploring the world. 

Just Go! 

Yes, planning and research are important when choosing to volunteer and travel. However, planning and research aren’t going to pack your bags and make the difference you crave. 

Once you’ve decided to travel and volunteer, reach out to your preferred program, start a fund, ask for help, and make it happen! It can be a scary choice, especially if you have decided to stay long term, but it is one that you will never regret. 

If you want to make a difference, but are still unsure of leaving your home, family, friends, and culture, take a look at a few of the benefits of traveling the world