Recently I’ve been getting a lot of emails from friends and readers asking about how to find volunteer or work opportunities abroad. In the past, I’ve addressed part of the issue in this post, but I never really got around to the volunteerism part.
Finding volunteerism opportunities abroad is quite easy, as any google search will show hundreds, if not thousands, of hits for search queries like, “volunteer abroad”, etc. I think what gets people worried is not where to volunteer, but with whom. Just the idea of shelling out several thousand dollars to help someone seems scammy and conjures images of West African entrepreneurs stealing credit card numbers and such.
These leaves most people with two options: pay the price for a reputable volunteer abroad agency, or do the leg work and get an opportunity at no cost.
If you go the first route, you’ll find it’s easy to volunteer abroad via an agency or a third-party provider; often these folks have got gap years down to a science, and you won’t have to worry about much except how much spending money to bring. The benefit of these trips is that you do get some working experience, with the promise that it will go as planned. I’ve found it to be true that most future employers look equally on these paid opportunities; at the end of the day, all that matters is what you did and how long you did it. Whether you want to volunteer in Africa, Asia, Europe, or America – the whole world is open to you.
If you’d like to volunteer overseas, but you might not have the money to pay for it, there are options for you too. Try calling agencies and third-party providers – they often have deals, discounts, or might be willing to cut you a deal if you’re looking to do multiple trips with the agency. In addition, there are many volunteer listing websites (idealist.org, stopdodo.com, craigslist.com, WWOOF program, to name a few) that allow for you to set up your own opportunities at little cost. The down side? It could be a scam, expectations might not be met or clearly articulated (perhaps due to language barriers), or you might not see opportunities listed in the area to which you want to travel. In fact, these problems can be so detrimental to travel, that my personal suggestion is to first use a volunteer service to get your overseas, and then (once you’re in-country), use free volunteer listing websites to get yourself hooked up on your next job.
Hopefully this post has answered some of your questions…keep them coming! In any case, I’d love to hear feedback from you about how you’ve managed to volunteer overseas; maybe I’ll learn something new!