Are you considering volunteering abroad? Read our complete guide on how to get started before you begin.
Whether you’re on holiday or living abroad as a British expat, volunteering can be a unique and rewarding experience — it may even change your life.
Here’s everything you need to know about volunteering in other countries…
- 1 Different Volunteering Abroad Opportunities
- 2 Different Ways of Volunteering Abroad
- 3 Benefits of Volunteering Abroad
- 4 Things to Consider Before Volunteering Abroad
Different Volunteering Abroad Opportunities
There are a multitude of organisations offering wide ranging volunteering opportunities all around the world — particularly in poor or developing countries in Africa and South America such as Ghana, Kenya, Costa Rica and Peru, and countries in Asia such as Nepal, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka.
Volunteer projects are hugely varied, and are often organised by charities and organisations specialising in specific areas including wildlife conservation, animal rights, women’s rights, education, construction, helping rebuild war torn communities, community development and much, much more.
Whatever your interests you are sure to find the perfect volunteer project to suit you, whether its helping research turtles on a Caribbean island, building classrooms for children in Maasai communities in Tanzania, or uncovering archaeological wonders in Romania.
Different Ways of Volunteering Abroad
Are you a British expat looking to volunteer in your new home country?
Or are you someone wanting to join a volunteer project whilst on your travels?
Whichever category you fall into read on for some great advice on how you can go about volunteering abroad…
Volunteering as an Expat
As an expat, volunteering in your area is an excellent way to find out more about your new country, integrate in local culture, give a great contribution to your new community, and make new friends and connections.
If you’ve got the time, there are often long term volunteer projects to get involved in, as well as plenty of short term projects and events that you can take part in when you have the time.
One good way to find out what volunteer projects are in your area is to do some internet research.
Depending on the country you live in, there are a number of different organisations which advertise volunteer positions of all kinds — some are international, whilst others are based in specific cities.
Some websites such as expat giving focus on projects specifically geared towards expats, but there are also lots of more general sites where you can search for both long and short term projects.
If you’re backpacking, on a gap year, taking some time out from your career, or just going on holiday, there are a whole range of suitable volunteer projects all over the world for you to choose from.
These projects tend to be shorter term, lasting anything from an action packed few days to a month or more. Organisations and companies offering these projects have easily searchable website databases listing all the available projects, either by location or type of project.
Some of the biggest and best include: International Volunteer HQ which offers more than 200 projects in over 40 international destinations, Grassroots Volunteering which features a search engine to locate local level community-based organizations offering volunteer programs around the globe, and Go Overseas which boasts nearly 4000 global volunteer program listings.
Take a look at some of the best programs on offer in this video:
Benefits of Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering can sometimes be challenging, but the benefits are boundless.
Helping others can make a huge difference to their lives — particularly in poorer countries — and the chance to integrate closely with other cultures can be a enormously enriching experience which allows you to make new bonds with people, broaden your mind, and see a side of another country that most tourists miss out on.
You’re also sure to make plenty of new friends, amongst both the locals and other like minded volunteers who work alongside you.
Volunteering is also a great way of giving back to the country you are exploring or living in and everything you gain from it can raise your confidence through the roof.
Volunteering can be a fantastic learning experience.
Different volunteer projects can give you the opportunity to learn and practise new skills or new languages, and choosing to participate in a volunteer project which is in line with your desired line of work can give your CV a big boost.
You may even find yourself learning things that inspire you to push your career in a new direction.
Many volunteers also find it an incredibly meaningful experience that provides wellbeing for mind, body and soul.
Volunteering can help you see the world differently and put things into a new perspective, teaching you how liberating living life simply can be, and helping you find meaning in everyday life and your place in the world.
But perhaps most importantly for many Brits volunteering abroad, is the chance for amazing adventures to be had.
Working as a volunteer can take you to some astounding destinations and open up a gateway to a whole new world of places, people, and experiences.
Things to Consider Before Volunteering Abroad
Are you all set and ready to get volunteering? Great!
Before you go there are a few important things to consider…
Do you need a visa?
The last thing you need is to arrive at your volunteer project only to realise that you haven’t got the right visa or work permit.
It’s crucial to find out what documents you need to volunteer legally well in advance, as some permits and visas require a lengthy application process which may have to be completed in the UK before you even get on a plane.
Is it ethical?
Is your chosen project all legal and above board? Is it sustainable? Is it taking away jobs for the local community by giving them to volunteers? Is the organisation transparent about where their money is going?
Sadly not all volunteer projects are honest, so please be sure that you do as much research and read as many reviews as possible to ensure that your chosen project is as good as it sounds for everybody involved.
Is it safe?
Health and safety may be an issue with certain volunteering projects.
Check to see if your chosen project has been vetted or is offered by an experienced and well established organisation, and make sure you have medical insurance in place for your trip.
Follow the advice of your hosts at all times — even if you think you know better — they live and work where they are every day. If you think there is a safety issue report it to your hosts straight away.
Carry a mobile phone and check in with friends and family back home regularly.
Are you braced for action?
Volunteer work is not a walk in the park.
Days can often be long and tiring — especially if you are doing physical work — and working and living conditions are not always comfortable.
Being a volunteer means being willing to throw yourself in at the deep and and get your hands dirty — giving it everything you got will make it all the more rewarding.
Are you emotionally prepared?
Volunteering often means exposing yourself to other cultures and other ways of life which are very different from what you are familiar with and which are not always pretty.
This can be overwhelming and even upsetting or traumatic for some volunteers.
Be realistic about what you are likely to experience whilst on your volunteer project, and make sure you can handle any possible emotional stress you may experience.
What should you expect?
It may seem like a no brainer, but if you haven’t done your research about your chosen volunteer destination it could throw up some problems.
Find out things such as what the climate is like when you will be visiting so you can pack appropriately, and any cultural differences so you can act accordingly without offending anyone.
In addition, find out about the facilities where you will be staying to ensure that you will be able to cope, as they can often be very basic.
That’s everything you need to know about volunteering abroad — any questions?