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How to Volunteer Abroad

Updated on May 13, 2013
My view from an English camp in the Czech Republic. Teaching abroad is a great way to volunteer in another country.
My view from an English camp in the Czech Republic. Teaching abroad is a great way to volunteer in another country. | Source

When looking to go on vacation to interesting areas of the world, many Americans are starting to turn to the volunteer vacation. These trips are great ways to both help people and learn a new culture.

There is the obvious question of where to go. There are many different countries around the world that are more than happy to have help from Americans or Canadians who are looking to make the world a little bit better off. Many of these nations are in South America, Africa, or Asia, and there are a variety of options when it comes to volunteer opportunities.

Go with Faith-based Groups

Those who are religious might find that their church has a desire to help people around the world through more than just the full-time missionary that has been the norm over much of history. Today, churches will sponsor doctors, dentists, engineers, business managers, and a host of other professionals and laborers to help out overseas.

Of course, if there are people on the ground that can do the job just as well as North Americans, there is no need to spend thousands of dollars to do something that locals can do to support themselves.

There are many nations around the world that have a lack of medical professionals. Doctors and nurses would be in wide demand. Dental work is important, yet lacking, in many developing nations. Engineers can set up opportunities for clean water or electricity that can help the standard of living for a village immensely. These are tasks that locals may not have expertise in.

One of the biggest things that those in developing nations want to have help in is learning English. North Americans from the US and Canada have this down pat, with the exception of some of the Francophones in Quebec. This is a skill that most people in developing countries can not do as well as Canadians or Americans. There is a desire to carry on conversations with native speakers, so this is a great volunteer opportunity.

Many churches will sponsor people for medical, teaching, or spiritual missions. Of course, this is not a vacation in the traditional sense of the word, there is serious work involved. However, this hard work is much more likely to be rewarding than traditional 9-5 jobs or spending a week soaking in the sun on the beach.

There are a number of agencies that sponsor volunteer opportunities from a faith-based standpoint. Some of these include mission agencies that have short-term volunteer opportunities. The first thing to do is to let your church know about this desire and, after getting some level of moral support, it is time to apply to the agency to do the work.

Those who have personal connections with missionaries abroad can just go directly to the missionary and ask if they can come for a visit to do some volunteer work in an applicable field. Those who have the funds can pay out of pocket, but many churches are willing to help in financial support.

Non-Religious Opportunities

Those who have no particular religious affiliation, as well as those with a religious affiliation who choose to go with a non-religious organization, still have many options when it comes to volunteering abroad. There are organizations like the Peace Corps that have options when it comes to volunteer opportunities.

It is important to find the right volunteer vacation agency. Like the faith-based groups, these non-religious organizations are heavy on service. Rather than focusing on material and spiritual emphases, the non-religious groups are going to deal entirely on material needs for the people served.

Some of the organizations will have funds available for volunteers. Others will make volunteers raise their own funds. While many people may feel awkward asking for funding, there are tons of regular citizens that are more than happy to support those who want to help others around the globe. If the organization is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, their contributions can even be tax deductible.

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Things to Think About

For those who are planning to go outside of North America and Western Europe, there will be a definite culture shock. There will probably be sights that are not familiar. There will be foods that are not familiar. There will be customs that are not familiar. The most shocking, however, might be the smells that are not familiar.

It is best to brace one's self before going to prepare for the shock. Those who are well-prepared can have a great time and learn a great deal about another land while helping out those who might be less fortunate.

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