International volunteer programs represent one of the best opportunities available to engage with another culture in a positive and meaningful way. When it comes to volunteering in Asia especially, the impact of volunteers is as needed as ever. Volunteer work in Asia may be centered on combating many serious social issues like poverty alleviation, human trafficking, and childhood health and education. Volunteer opportunities are available all over Asia, and are as diverse as the many cultures that exist in the region. So if you have the desire to make a lasting impact on lives on the opposite side of the world, then volunteer programs in Asia may be a great fit for you.
Asia is the largest of the world’s seven continents, both in terms of size and population. To say that there are ample locations to volunteer in Asia would be a bit of an understatement. With such a variety of locations, comes a multitude of options when it comes to your volunteer experience, what type of work you will be doing, how much things will cost, and what type of culture you will be immersed in. The countries listed below are just a few of the most popular countries for volunteering abroad in Asia.
India: As the second most populous nation on earth, India certainly has a wide range of fields for volunteers to chose from. Medical volunteering is especially popular in India, especially in rural areas where the need for proper eye and dental care is high, which includes opportunities to work in maternal and child health. Multiple volunteer organizations provide international volunteer programs in India for individuals with widely varying backgrounds.
Nepal: If a volunteer program on the roof of the world sounds appealing to you, consider volunteering in Nepal. Volunteer organizations in Nepal frequently accept volunteers to assist with programs involving everything from teaching orphaned children to constructing community facilities to assisting with seasonal crop planting and harvesting. Nepal represents a potentially life changing experience, for both volunteers and the local people.
Thailand: The climate and culture of Thailand attracts millions of visitors to the nation’s beautiful beaches each year, but outside of the resorts the country sees its fair share of social issues and need. Volunteer programs in Thailand provide numerous opportunities to work with children and in human trafficking. In general, individuals can volunteer in Thailand throughout all regions of the country, in both urban and rural areas.
Volunteering in Asia
Although volunteer placements in Asia span a diverse range of projects and focus areas, the following placements are some of the most common in the region.
Education. Due to the often limited resources and educational structure throughout many nations in Asia, education becomes a top priority for many volunteer programs. Teaching English in Asia is by far the most popular placement within the field of education, with opportunities to teach both children and adults. Teaching in Asia often goes beyond just educating individuals in low-income or rural areas, by providing education in local communities volunteers will also help empower their students. If you happen to know a foreign language you will have even more opportunities to teach in Asia, as your options may include teaching subjects other than English.
Medicine & Healthcare. In many rural regions of Asia, health care systems are very limited. In some nations, the expanse of land encompassed by one hospital or medical facility is simply insufficient to provide sufficient care for the local people, or the facility lacks the needed funding and technology to appropriately treat patients. Individuals who volunteer in healthcare can help offset this disparity by acting as another set of hands and assisting local medical professionals. Volunteer programs in maternal and child health, for example, aim to provide essential services to new mothers and young children to help ensure adequate child development and general well-being. Healthcare volunteers are also often tasked with educating parents on appropriate childcare techniques to promote the health of themselves as well as their children.
Human Trafficking. Human trafficking throughout Asia has been a serious issue for decades. Individuals who volunteer in Asia in human trafficking placements may work in a variety of roles to assist victims of sexual exploitation, who are most often young girls and women. Volunteer organizations in Asia that help combat the effects of human trafficking typically provide shelter, food, and education to help rehabilitate victims and empower them to rebuild their lives.
Costs & Affordability
Due to the huge geographic, economic, and cultural differences in Asia as a whole, the financial specifics of volunteering abroad in Asia vary quite greatly. However, there are a few commonalities between most volunteer programs in Asia, such as most will charge some type of upfront program fee. These fees will often be inclusive of the major expenses associated with your trip, including housing, airport transfer, and oftentimes at least one or two meals per day. The good thing for individuals who decide to volunteer in Asia, in nearly any country, is the low cost of living across the region. Almost all locations for volunteering in Asia are decently affordable in comparison to many other top volunteer abroad destinations (although obviously there are exceptional cities or countries that break this rule).
On top of program fees for housing and food costs, many organizations may also require volunteers to make a donation or financial contribution to help the organization run its programs or projects (either in the form of supplies or money). All funds provided by volunteers are used to give back to the local communities in most cases, or to help the organization continue providing services and volunteer programs.
Finally, it is important to note that airfare is very rarely (if ever) included in volunteer program fees. Obviously, airfare from the United States to basically any part of Asia will cost a significant about, and will represent a sizable percentage of the total cost of volunteering in Asia. Don’t forget to keep airfare costs in mind when selecting a volunteer program in Asia.
Accommodations & Visas
Accommodations are another aspect that will naturally vary with each volunteer program in Asia, but it is very common for volunteer organizations to pre-arrange housing for volunteers, either in the homestays or in a local hotel. For those unaccustomed to the concept, homestays may seem a bit strange or awkward, but staying with a local family is a fantastic opportunity to engage with the local culture. Homestays usually also include a great deal of exposure to local cuisine and cooking practices, as well as an opportunity to immediately interact and bond with locals.
Volunteering in Asia will typically take place within the borders of a single country, so the visa process will be as simple or as complicated as your destination country makes it. For example, some nations, such as Nepal and Cambodia, grant an entry visa to any U.S. citizen upon arrival. There is no need for obtaining visas ahead of time to volunteer abroad in countries like this. On the other hand, many nations, like India, require travelers to request their visa at least two months prior to their arrival. Also, when volunteering in China visas must be applied for early and they cost around $200 to obtain, depending on your state of residence.
Keep in mind that any reputable volunteer organization in Asia will work with you to ensure that all of the appropriate paperwork is completed before your departure and that any potential roadblocks are brought to you attention. Don’t be afraid to contact your organization with questions if you have any during the decision-making process or with visas. Volunteering abroad in Asia can be the opportunity of a lifetime and asking questions is a great way to make sure the organization is a good fit for you before you ever even leave home.
Benefits & Challenges
The benefits to volunteering abroad in Asia are both plentiful and long lasting, to say the least. Volunteering abroad in Asia gives you the opportunity to experience a culture different from your own while simultaneously making a direct impact in which ever cause you choose to give your time to.
International volunteer experience is also a shining star on professional resumes, showing that you care enough to devote your time to important social issues that need attention, on the other side of the world to boot.
When it comes to volunteer work in Asia specifically, the areas that are most in need of volunteers are often very poor and will represent a side of life that is hard to come by in the United States. Be prepared to witness hardships you may have never encountered before and be prepared to witness things that might genuinely elicit surprising emotions.
Volunteering in Asia requires you to deal with many new situations and experiences in an environment that is thoroughly foreign and unfamiliar. However, if you believe that you are up to confronting the mental and emotional challenges of volunteer work in Asia, your help is desperately needed in many countries. Giving your time to a volunteer organization in Asia could be one of the most powerful and formative experiences of your life.