Gambia may be Africa’s smallest country, but because of its central role throughout Africa’s history it has become home to one of the largest diversity of cultures and ethnicities on the continent. Volunteering abroad in Gambia will expose you to an immense variety of West African music, food, and languages. About one-third of the nation’s 2 million citizens also live below the poverty line, so there are many different ways that you can help boost development efforts as a volunteer abroad in Gambia.
Gambia is a very small country, covering roughly 4,000 square miles in western Africa. The country’s borders encompass a narrow strip that straddles the Gambia River as it flows through Senegal into the Atlantic Ocean. The Gambia River has always been an important trade route in Africa; after years of colonization at the hands of the Portuguese and then the British, Gambia finally became its own nation in 1965.
Banjul is Gambia’s capital and largest city, with a population of over 300,000 citizens living in the greater metropolitan area. Sitting pristinely on the mouth of the Gambia River as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, there is hardly a more enticing destination where to volunteer abroad in Gambia than Banjul. Banjul was built on St. Mary’s Island and is connected to the Gambian mainland via several bridges.
Gambia’s rural areas are also a popular option among international volunteers, immersing them within a much more intimate cultural context than the big city. Living in a village while you volunteer abroad in Gambia will be an amazing experience as you become enmeshed within the tight-knit, family-oriented culture that continues to be an essential part of many African rural communities
Projects & Placements
Gambia ranks very low on the UN’s Human Development Index, which takes into account factors such as education quality, social resources, and economic opportunity. Many Gambians live in poverty and do not have access to essential resources such as education, medicine, and other forms of preventative healthcare, making these fields very popular for volunteer projects in Gambia.
Human rights issues are often closely intertwined with poverty, and this is no different in Gambia. For example there are many international and local organizations which champion the rights of women, children, and the elderly, who all constitute a disproportionate sector of Gambia’s underserved population. Broader placements that bring valuable services to locals while you volunteer abroad in Gambia can also be found within the areas of nutrition, environmental planning, and community development.
As there is a persistent demand for aid from the international community, you can generally choose to volunteer abroad in Gambia for as short or long as you are able to remain abroad. Some volunteers choose to stay in Gambia for just a few weeks, while others stay for several months or even up to a full year. You never know, maybe after spending some time in Gambia you’ll decide to make a career out of volunteering abroad!
Costs & Affordability
The Gambia is a very affordable destination for most international volunteers when it comes to on-the-ground costs; however program fees themselves can often prove expensive, encompassing costs such as transportation, meals, and housing for the duration of your volunteer project in Gambia. Check out our fundraising page to get started turning your dream to volunteer abroad in Gambia into reality today!
Accommodation & Visas
Accommodations will vary significantly depending on if you are living in an urban or rural setting, but on the whole do not expect to be engulfed in luxury while you volunteer abroad in Gambia. Remember you are a visitor in a country where many locals lack access to basic resources; so while you will be made comfortable, do not count on commodities such as hot water, air condition, or internet connection to always be available.
Gambia’s visa policy also will vary depending on what country you are travelling from and the duration of your stay. Volunteers from some countries will be allowed to enter visa-free, others can obtain a visa on arrival, and still others will have to apply for clearance prior to entering the country. For more specifics on your individual circumstances, be sure to check out our Gambian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Give of Yourself. Gambia is a beautiful country and culture, but many of its citizens struggle day in and day out for lack of resources and opportunity. Volunteers can make a genuine impact by giving their time to collaborate with local projects.
Immerse in Diversity. It’s positioning along the Gambia river has brought a wide array of cultural influences from all over western Africa into the Gambian national identity. Though a small country, you will experiencing a great amount of regional diversity.
Learn History. As with many other West African countries, Gambia continues to shed a past marred by colonization and oppression at the hands of foreign nations. Living here will educate you about the best and worst of Gambia’s history.