It happened. You knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. You drank the sweet, sweet volunteering Kool-Aid and caught the travel bug. Now, you’ve decided that it’s time to take your passion for helping others to the next level and embark on a 1-2 year volunteer abroad program. With infinite program options and plenty of need, there are always spots waiting to be filled with volunteers of every shape and size, and volunteers looking to commit 1-2 years are in particularly hot demand. The only prereqs are an open heart and an open schedule.
Why Volunteer for 1-2 years?
While the benefits of volunteering for any length of time are invaluable, long-term volunteering programs that last 1-2 years have off-the-chart potential. 1-2 year volunteer programs abroad are sure to be a life changing experience for both volunteer and the local communities.
Perhaps the most compelling reason to dive headfirst into long-term volunteering is to truly become a part of the community you are serving. Plus, you will get to stick around long enough to really see a project through and watch it evolve. But that won’t be the only thing that evolves. Like most who are passionate about volunteering, your ultimate goal is probably to help people. But intentionally or unintentionally, volunteering will also change you in countless ways.
You know you want to volunteer abroad for a year or two, but getting started can be intimidating. The world is so big, and the choices are so bountiful! To turn your volunteer dreams into reality, check out a few of these popular locations:
Tanzania. Many are drawn to Tanzania for a hiking experience to awe-inspiring heights atop Kilimanjaro, a safari through the Serengeti, or lounging on the beach in Zanzibar. However, the real experience comes from greeting the bright smiling faces of the local children who rush to say hello to a long-term volunteer they’ve come to know and love. Long-term volunteer work in Tanzania gives people a chance to not only experience this beauty, but also the beauty of diving into a new language, culture, and way of living, all while making a huge difference in a community in need.
New Zealand. Help save the beautiful biodiversity of New Zealand ecosystems! Long before New Zealand was known for hobbits and wizards, this island was home to wonderfully diverse ecosystems. New Zealand is the perfect location for volunteers who are passionate about protecting this natural environment and combating the threats to this island nation’s landscape. Long-term volunteers can contribute in numerous ways and even spend time off exploring all that the real life Middle Earth has to offer hobbits and humans alike.
India. There is no middle ground in India: the rich are rich and the poor belong to some of the biggest slums in the world. Despite the major efforts made to combat poverty, it is an epidemic that rules the country. From volunteering abroad in local schools or providing care to the sick, to taking a stand in promoting human rights, there are many areas that could benefit from long-term volunteer support in India. Your perspective will change and eyes will open as you fall in love with a complex community that appreciates your hard work.
Popular 1-2 Year Volunteer Abroad Projects
If you’re planning to invest a year of your life in a long-term international volunteer program, chances are you’ve already dipped your toes in the water of short-term volunteering and you have a pretty good idea of how you want to allocate your skills and spirit. If you’re still undecided, siphon some inspo from these programs:
Medicine. Medical volunteering abroad can fulfill any giving spirit and allow long-term volunteers to gain a deeper insight into what healthcare looks like in different areas of the world. Often, hospitals in urban areas abroad are underserved in terms of medical professional staff, while rural clinics in developing countries operate vastly differently and usually with limited supplies and resources. No matter what your qualifications, there are always ways help those less fortunate live healthier, happier lives.
Conservation. Wildlife and environmental conservation is one of the most popular areas for volunteering abroad around the world. From working with endangered sea turtles in Central America to elephants in Southeast Asia, there are a huge amount of conservation volunteer opportunities out there for compassionate volunteers who strive to preserve the world’s ecological diversity.
Education. For many students in developing countries, going to school and doing homework is considered a luxury, instead of a chore. Access to quality education is a fundamental issue in the world today, and one that deserves a significant amount of international attention to resolve. If you want to make a sizable impact on one of the most undervalued, but highly necessary, fields in the world today, become a long-term volunteer abroad in education.
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop
Relationships. The relationships you build when you do a 1-2 year volunteer program abroad are the rock solid, in it for life kinds of relationships. Long-term volunteers are not just pop-in visitors—they’re family.
Homesickness. Leaving behind everything you’ve ever known and trading it in for a life in a strange land for years to come is bound to bring about some bouts of homesickness here and there. No one is immune. The best way to combat this? Invite your friends and family to come visit you in whatever super rad country you now call home!
Be the Change. While short-term volunteer projects often place the emphasis on accomplishing short-term goals and changes, long-term volunteers are the ones backing these changes. They are much more rooted in the creation of transformational aspirations. Long-term volunteers are the ones who work towards the systemic changes that many aspire to accomplish. Volunteering is not an excursion but a lifestyle change.
There are those who point at what’s wrong and hope someone else will put in the hard work to change it, and then there’s you. You are among those who get out there, roll up your sleeves, and try to make this planet better for all. Long term volunteering takes a lot of grit, dedication, and no shortage of elbow grease, but we think you’re up for the task.