In Volunteering Abroad: 10 Things to Know Before You Go, we discussed everything you should think about before you sign up. With proper planning, it can be the experience of a lifetime. We offer some resources for volunteering abroad to help find a good program to ensure it is seamless, hassle-free and rewarding.
5 perks of volunteering abroad
When we volunteered abroad at Chacra Millalen, an organic farm in Argentina, we learned new skills, met interesting people, ate lots of new foods, and experienced a different way of life.
Help others. Whether you’re cleaning up a polluted river or volunteering in a medical clinic, the work you’re doing is making a difference. The people you’re helping will be incredibly grateful. It will make you feel good too.
Get up close and personal with a culture. There’s no better way to experience a culture than by living in it. You’ll see parts of the culture and country you’d easily miss living in a hostel, especially if you’re living with a host family. Plus, you’ll get to try new foods.
Learn a language. The best way to practice a language is to be immersed in it. When the people you’re working with are counting on you to communicate, and you’re listening to another language being spoken for hours every day, you’ll become more proficient than you would believe. And you won’t even have to pay for language classes.
Have fun. When you’re working 12 hour days with someone, you’re going to bond, even if you might never have otherwise been friends. And making friends will take your mind off the hard work, sore muscles, or hot weather. In addition to getting to know other volunteers, you’ll also get to build relationships locals.
Learn a trade. You may not want to be an organic farmer now, but who knows what your dream will be in 10 or 15 years? You may decide to start your own garden or even a farm. Even if you don’t, you’ll learn leadership, teamwork, and communication skills that will impress any prospective employer.
Great resources for volunteering abroad
Getting Started & Finding Volunteer Programs
Whether you WWOOF or choose one of these below, there are many options, including:
Crossculturalsolutions.org: Offers volunteer programs in 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand.
idealist.org: An extensive volunteer database with environmental listings, connections to local nonprofits, financial aid information, internships and a kids and teens page. Current opportunities include teaching environmental awareness to Nepalese villagers and developing a fruit-drying program for Ghanan villagers, among many others.
volunteerabroad.com: Listings include opportunities to protect Australia’s environment and conservation projects in Costa Rica.
volunteerinternational.org: Conservation programs in Thailand, creating a Holocaust Memorial Park in Poland and making eco-friendly soap with disabled persons in Japan are just three of the unique opportunities you’ll find on this site.
The Nature Conservancy accepts volunteers working to conserve the Boreal Forest and the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada (see nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/canada).
Great Adventures provides links to volunteer and work abroad programs in dozens of countries.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms– Volunteer on organic farms across the world – no previous experience required.
i-to-i.com: Work to conserve Madagascar’s lemurs, care for endangered wallabies in Australia or help maintain biodiversity with indigenous peoples in Costa Rica.
Tim Ferriss’s take on volunteering abroad lists 5 international volunteering organizations under “Volunteering Mini-Retirements” experiences:
Burners Without Borders– Following the 2005 Burning Man event, several participants headed south into the Hurricane Katrina disaster area to help people rebuild their devastated communities. After several months of working along the Gulf Coast, BWB has set up a project in Pisco, Peru to assist with earthquake relief work.
Project HOPE– Nearly 50 years ago, Project HOPE was founded on the willingness of doctors, nurses and other medical volunteers to travel the globe on a floating hospital ship, the SS HOPE, to provide medical care, health education and humanitarian assistance to people in need. While we now operate land-based programs in more than 35 countries, Project HOPE has again returned to sending medical volunteers on board ships around the world to provide medical assistance, long reaching health education programs, vaccinations and humanitarian assistance.
International Relief Teams – International Relief Teams mobilizes volunteers and distributes medical supplies to support the organization’s four missions: 1) domestic and international disaster relief, 2) medical education and training, 3) surgical and clinical outreach, and 4) public health. Since 1988, IRT has provided more than $5.6 million in volunteer services, and more than $112 million in medicines and supplies to families in desperate need in 42 countries worldwide.
Relief International – Relief International is a humanitarian non-profit agency that provides emergency relief, rehabilitation, development assistance, and program services to vulnerable communities worldwide. RI is solely dedicated to reducing human suffering and is non-political and non-sectarian in its mission.
Hands On Disaster Response – Hands on Disaster Response covers food and housing and does not require a fee.
Habitat for Humanity – Build houses for people who can’t afford them with this well-known U.S.-based organization.
Doctors Without Borders -You don’t have to be an MD to provide medical care to people in developing countries. They’re currently seeking doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, technicians, logisticians, and others.
Engineers Without Borders USA – Projects “range from the construction of sustainable systems that developing communities can own and operate without external assistance, to empowering such communities by enhancing local, technical, managerial, and entrepreneurial skills.”
Conservation Volunteers in Australia. – Links to various conservation programs and organizations in Australia.
Volunteer Match – A great resource for providing you with volunteer opportunities (including many in the US) that match your interests.
Looking for more resources for volunteering abroad?
Volunteer Traveling and WWOOFing:
Volunteering can be a life-changing experience for you and those you help. Using these resources for volunteering abroad, you will have your choice of opportunities and find the best one for your interests.