The world is full of natural beauty, from the exotic plants of the rainforest to the colorful coral reefs of the ocean. This natural beauty is being threatened by many factors including global climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, overpopulation in humans, and more. As an environmental volunteer abroad, you will help preserve and protect vulnerable resources by working in some of the most endangered areas of the world.
Why Volunteer Abroad
Volunteering in environmental conservation means that you will directly contribute to positive change. Whether you want to dig in and get your hands dirty planting trees or raise awareness by training local communities, you will help make a difference.
What will be left to see if our natural environment is not protected? The contributions you will make as an environmental volunteer abroad will help ensure that generations to come can travel and enjoy the same natural wonders that you did. Volunteering abroad will help you learn new and valuable skills in the field of environmental conservation. It is also a great way to meet people who are passionate about protecting the world’s most precious resources and who want to work hard to reverse the damaging effects that environmental issues have already caused.
Every area of the world needs environmental conservationists and therefore, environmental volunteers. However, in developing countries, protecting the environment is not often considered a priority, and thus it is in these areas of the world where volunteers are most needed.
Madagascar is one of the most endangered places in the world. Located off the coast of Africa, this island is home to an array of plants and animals, including 50 species of lemur found nowhere else on Earth. Threats include cattle grazing, logging, agriculture, and invasive species. In addition, the African continent as a whole is seeing dwindling numbers in its animal population due to poaching.
The Amazon Rainforest, in South America, is home to 10 percent of the world’s known species. It is the largest tropical rainforest on the planet. Environmentalists are incredibly concerned about deforestation in this region. Not only does deforestation result in a major loss of biodiversity, but it accelerates global warming by releasing carbon contained within the vegetation. International volunteers can protect the beautiful nature of the Amazon by working as an environmental volunteer in South America.
The Tropical Andes are also located in South America, and this sub-region of the Andes mountain range is considered a global epicenter of biodiversity. The critically endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey, once thought to be extinct, lives here, as does the spectacled bear, the only bear in South America. Environmental threats include mining, logging, agriculture, and construction.
Indonesia, as well as the majority of Southeast Asia, is suffering from the deforestation of its forests largely because of the demand for palm oil. Many animals, including the endangered Bornean orangutan, the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros, and pygmy elephants unique to the island of Borneo, are approaching extinction.
Environmental Volunteer Work
Volunteering in environmental conservation can mean a broad range of things. Depending on your interests, you could be working in a wildlife rehabilitation center or teaching schoolchildren about environmental issues. There is something for everyone and every interest, but some of the more common environmental volunteer abroad programs focus on education, reforestation, nature reserves, and marine conservation.
Education programs raise awareness by teaching the importance of environmental conservation. Volunteers visit schools and run workshops to educate local residents on using natural resources in a sustainable way. This environmental placement is a good fit for volunteers interested in working directly with people.
Reforestation projects focus on rebuilding forests around the world. Volunteers typically assist with tree planting, soil preparation, trail maintenance, and seed gathering. They might also contribute to research by surveying species. Volunteers in reforestation projects usually reside in a base camp within the jungle and get to experience a truly wild environment.
Nature reserves are protected areas important to the conservation of flora and fauna. They also provide opportunities for study and research. Many environmental conservation volunteering placements are in nature reserves. Volunteers are needed to catalogue species, conduct field research, and help with plant cultivation.
Marine conservation is another important area because the underwater environment is also suffering from environmental factors. If you have or want to obtain a dive certification, this is a great placement to choose. Volunteers conduct underwater research, as well as on shore research, and beach cleanups.
Environmental volunteer work usually lasts from one to eight weeks. Prior experience is not required for most placements and training is often provided. However, volunteers should have a passion for environmental conservation and the willingness to lend a hand where needed. Enthusiasm for children is recommended for those interested in educational placements too.
Volunteer travel differs from tourist travel in that you get to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. Volunteers work side-by-side with local residents, hear their stories, and live their everyday life. Volunteering in environmental conservation will allow you to explore the most remote areas of the Earth and experience wild animals up close. If you choose to be an environmental volunteer abroad, you will be using your time and energy in an impactful and meaningful way. You can feel good heading home too, knowing that you have left the world a better place through environmental volunteering abroad.