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Five Essential Tips For International Volunteers
Anyone who decides to volunteer abroad already has the most important qualification you need: the urge to make a positive change in the world. This is the element that can carry an international volunteer through frustrations, disappointments, or conflicts that arise when fighting the good fight in challenging foreign conditions.
Volunteering abroad in an orphanage in the Philippines. Photo courtesy Eileen Loh
Most pending volunteer stints abroad are daunting, because few volunteers have lived or worked under those specific conditions before. Nothing can really prepare them for it until they’re thrown into the mix. But some issues are common to most or all volunteer projects abroad. Here are five things to take on board if you’re planning a volunteering stint anywhere overseas:
Work Within Their Culture. A common mistake that new volunteers make is to arrive at an international project expecting to immediately share their knowledge with the people there. Chances are, you’ll need to learn a whole lot about the people and place where you’re visiting before you can even think about doing much teaching. In a developing country, you might immediately come up with solutions to common problems they face — and these solutions might make perfect sense, from a Western or First World standpoint. But if your ideas don’t mesh with their cultural norms, religious practices, or social expectations, they’re not going to fly. Often, volunteering abroad means you’re not so much solving a problem, as figuring out how to help make improvements based on the lifestyles and traditions where you are.
Make An Effort To Learn The Language. Yes, even if your job is to teach your language to them. Yes, even if you’re only going to be volunteering there a few days or weeks. Yes, even if lots of people there speak English anyway. Learn common words, phrases, and popular sayings in the language where you are volunteering. You will make a positive impression on the locals, and that goes a long way. Plus, it will likely make day-to-day life in that place a lot easier for you.
Find Out About The Culture Before You Go. Don’t show up in Uganda with shorts or skirts that reveal your scandalous knees, or wear a tank top when you’re working with nuns in the Philippines. Little behaviors you barely notice back home might be a big deal in your chosen country, and these could interfere with your ability to be taken seriously in your volunteer project. Find out about the culture beforehand so you can learn what’s expected of you in day-to-day life. Ask your program provider to hook you up with volunteer alumni, so you can get their first-hand accounts. Other sources of info are travel blogs by volunteers abroad, ex-pat forums online, and magazine or newspaper articles about your chosen country and culture.
Be Appropriately Generous. Especially for first-time volunteers abroad, the urge to give and give and give can get overwhelming. The sight of beggars, street kids, and other people in sad and difficult conditions often leads volunteers to “guilt give” money whenever asked. While giving a handout might be an act of kindness to you, it can be counterproductive in the grand scheme of things. A street kid who’s learned to work tourists for handouts is less inclined to get involved with programs that can help him become educated and self-sufficient. Your monetary donations are best spent with community or humanitarian organizations providing outreach and support to those who need help. If you are inclined to give to people you encounter on the street, food is a better gift than money.
Be Realistic About What You Can Accomplish. Most of the time, volunteers abroad are working against tough conditions that developed over many years and by many factors: social, political, cultural, religious, geographical, economic, and more. No international volunteer, no matter how hard-working, can undo years or generations of damage in one trip. Learn to recognize and appreciate the “small” victories that you achieve with your project in your time abroad. You are a small cog in a big machine — one that’s much larger than you, and one that will eventually bring improvement on a mass scale. Your contribution might be small, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still vitally important.
Our vision is to support the work of local community organizations in developing countries through the placement of international volunteers. We believe that local communities are in the best position to determine their needs, and we provide volunteers to help them achieve their goals.
No matter which program you choose, you'll enjoy the exciting and personally inspiring Cross-Cultural Solutions experience - a balance of volunteer work, cultural activities and free time.
If you want to spend a period of time working as a volunteer abroad in the developing world, look no further than Projects Abroad. We have directly-employed staff in every destination that will organize all aspects of your project, and guide you through your time with us.
One of the main reasons to start Volunteering Solutions was to provide highly safe, meaningful and affordable volunteer programs abroad. Although there are many companies providing the same services as we are, our aim is to provide the most affordable and high quality volunteer programs.
Now is the time to extend your reach to the world! ISV programs are for everyone who wants to make a leap of difference abroad! ISV does quality programs with the combination of informative, hands-on, and educational volunteer projects, mixed with exciting adventure programs in a safe and well-organized environment as well as fun and supportive staff.
GoEco was created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager to travel and contribute to the community, wildlife and environment they visit. Based on years of practice and in-depth field reports, GoEco presents you a careful selection of excellent yet affordable volunteer and ecological minded vacations
The Humanity Exchange has 36 programs in 5 different locations. Programs are offered in Benin, Mexico, Cameroon, Colombia and Ghana. THEX provides affordable placements, and is committed to working in partnership with local communities.
United Planet's holistic approach integrates international, local, and online initiatives to facilitate ongoing engagement. All United Planet programs create points of access for people of all cultures, nationalities, ages, and socio-economic classes to participate worldwide. Each program feeds into and builds momentum for the other.
We offer affordable volunteer and intern abroad programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The programs are customized for you according to your needs (with flexible work schedule and start date). Affordable program fees start from only USD 180 (accommodation & meals included). Our programs are designed to help local communities while at the same time providing valuable learning and cultural ...
The Adelante program illuminates the language and cultural aspects in a way that no other program does, through work assignments and independent living situations, so candidates experience life much like the locals live. We provide an 'open door' in more ways than one.
Over recent years, we here at Volunteer For The Visayans have made great strides to improve the lives of many people in our local communities, but desperately need a constant flow of volunteers and donors to achieve our goals.
Whether you are a student, a professional, or a retiree, there is a wide world to explore, with endless opportunities to learn. Welcome to ELI, a non-profit organization that creates volunteer, internship, and study abroad opportunities for the globally-minded who want a travel experience that goes beyond the ordinary.
Global Vision International work with local charities, government bodies and community organizations across the world, helping them to find volunteers to work on a wide range of worthwhile and vitally important projects.
GeoVisions … We’re small enough to pay close attention to our students and our employers, and large enough to give you the support and resources you need to be assured of a rewarding international experience.
UBELONG is a social venture based in Washington, DC quickly becoming the recognized leader in short-term international volunteering. Without compromising safety, impact or flexibility, we offer the most affordable one week to six month opportunities in Asia and Latin America. We are led by former volunteers, international development professionals and university professors.
Explore remote and spectacular landscapes, work with deprived and deserving communities, or campaign for wildlife care and conservation on a travel adventure you’ll never forget.
African Impact is a volunteer travel organisation with over 8 years’ experience in offering responsible, fun and interactive conservation and community focussed volunteer experiences and internships in over 10 countries throughout Africa. We believe in making a real difference and empowering our volunteers to do the same. Join us in making an impact in Africa and have fun doing it!
Connect-123 develops and administers volunteer, internship and study abroad programs in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Cape Town, South Africa. In both countries, internship and volunteer work opportunities are hosted by local companies, non-profit organizations, schools, research institutes and health care clinics.
We share the same passions you have about traveling abroad. We treat you the way that we want to be treated, and provide the service that we hope to get on the road.
Globalteer is a UK registered non profit charity that serves to help those in need. Overseas volunteer placements can be booked on this website to work with Globalteer and our partner projects.
uVolunteer is run by former-volunteers for volunteers, and is built on the principle that volunteer community service programs abroad should be affordable and accessible to all.
Maximo Nivel’s volunteer and internship projects in Peru, Costa Rica, and Guatemala provide unique opportunities to live and work internationally while experiencing the countries’ rich cultural diversity and building your proficiency in the Spanish language.
Work side-by-side and build relationships with members of our indigenous partner communities in the U.S. and abroad.
Knowledge Must assists students, professionals, and organisations to successfully cross cultural boundaries. The organisation has five divisions: Career Must, Language Must, Training Must, Travel Must, and Culture Must. Starting with career counselling, they provide study and work experience, language immersion, culture-specific and process-oriented training, individualised travel arrangements,...
ISA (International Studies Abroad) has 33 programs in 15 different locations. Programs are offered in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China and 10 other countries.
Welcome to Adventure Minded People Exploring Diversity Abroad. Offering quality, safe programs is at the core of our organization. As a result, we are kicking off our efforts in Latin America, with carefully researched projects and with local partners we know and trust.
If you are seeking a unique volunteering experience look no further than Volunteer Maldives, where there are variety of projects and development programs to benefit local island communities and inspire individuals!
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