If you’re looking to volunteer abroad because you want to meet locals who are making real changes in their communities and build something that will last long after you leave, volunteering abroad in community centers is for you. Though the locations can differ greatly, all community centers offer amazing volunteer opportunities no matter your interest or experience. One day you may be playing with children and the next you might be put to work, wearing gloves and creating new buildings from scratch. While community centers vary in size, scope, or even how advanced their resources are, international community centers all share one need: volunteers with a desire to make a real change.
Why Volunteer Abroad
Volunteering abroad in community centers is ideal for individuals interested in serving a community in need, and getting varied experience with the chance to walk away with a greater understanding of a new culture. Those who volunteer in community centers abroad will be able to make real changes in the communities they visit by addressing specific needs, such as the renovation and construction of orphanages, schools, clinics, and community centers. Community center volunteers are commonly jacks-of-all-trades, or learn how to be quite quickly!
Community center volunteer work will give volunteers the chance to do all of this, AND expand their understanding of a new culture while traveling and experiencing a new place. Individuals that volunteer abroad in community centers will also learn about rural community development, by meeting community leaders and organizing efforts to build or rebuild a sense of community.
By working to revitalize communities abroad, volunteers will have the chance to truly improve people’s lives and provide help where it’s greatly needed.
Opportunities to volunteer in community centers can be found all over the world and community center volunteer work varies greatly, since programs are focused on meeting the needs of the particular community and local families. Therefore, when thinking about where to volunteer in community centers abroad, it’s helpful to think about what kind of experience and work interests you most.
Communities in the greatest need of volunteers are frequently located throughout rural Africa. In countries like Ghana, Tanzania, and South Africa, community center volunteers will likely be focused on construction. If you choose to volunteer at a community center in Africa, you’ll typically be working on the ground with elders and volunteer coordinators to build new structures from scratch. Each location has something different to offer, so choose your specific location within Africa based on what you’re looking for from your experience as a whole. South Africa, for example, offers major, well-developed cities with all the conveniences you’d expect, while Ghana is more widely renowned for its flourishing village culture.
If you aren’t a builder, there will still be plenty for you to do if you volunteer in community centers abroad. In communities throughout Ecuador and Costa Rica, where building projects are less of a priority, the support of volunteers, especially English-speaking ones, can change the lives of children and students immensely. Volunteering in community centers throughout Latin America means you’ll have the chance to work on your Spanish skills while becoming an integral part of local communities.
Volunteer opportunities in community centers in Italy, on the other hand, often provide volunteers with the chance to create their own workshops or extracurricular programs. Becoming a community center volunteer in Italy will allow you to fully immerse yourself in a well established community, fill a need, and provide services to families and children who can truly benefit from your energy and attention.
Community Center Volunteer Work
As mentioned above, volunteering in community centers abroad will likely look very different from one location to the next, but there is always something that volunteers can help with at any community center abroad.
There are many opportunities for community center volunteers to work on construction projects focused on rebuilding community buildings, such as schools and clinics, which may entail manual labor, like bricklaying, painting, digging, and carpentry. In these community center placements, volunteers will work alongside locals and other members of the community, giving them the chance to learn about the local culture, whether through conversation, observation, or sharing a meal. These kinds of community center volunteer placements occasionally require some prior knowledge of construction trades, but all volunteers must be in good enough shape to handle some physical exertion.
If building and construction isn’t your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in community centers by supporting child care or educational programs. You may have the opportunity to travel between community centers or schools, working one-on-one or in groups with children to support educational growth, build confidence, or teach them useful skills. Volunteers in these types of community center placements should obviously like working with children, but they usually don’t need a lot of prior experience. If you’d like to volunteer in a community center abroad in this type of role, you should plan on staying at least two weeks or more, in order to really get to know the kids and communities you’ll be working with.
There are many more community projects and programs hosted in community centers abroad that you can get involved in that are not listed above, especially in developing countries where many families live below the poverty line and rely on various types of volunteer support. Of course, the more in need the community is, the more there is that needs to be done, which may mean volunteers starting from scratch and creating something from nothing.
Benefits & Challenges
Individuals who volunteer in community centers abroad will have the opportunity to foster real “culture sharing”, as they will share their time, energy, and expertise with communities, who will share their customs and traditions in return. This type of knowledge and experience is only possible through volunteering abroad, and community centers are a great place to become more immersed in the local culture of a destination.
Volunteers need an incredible amount of energy and initiative. For individuals interested in community development at home, school support services, revitalizing land, and constructing buildings, volunteering abroad in community centers will provide plenty of interesting learning experiences.
The world is littered with problems in need of solutions, and community center volunteers will have the opportunity to be the solution (or at least begin to create one), leaving their host community better than they found it.