Without question, the need in the world is increasing. Crises worldwide seem to be countless, and affecting those of all backgrounds. Thankfully, each community consists of both those who are sickened and incapacitated by the struggles at hand and those that yearn to be the changemakers in their communities. These leaders often become driven to promote action and often create grassroots organizations with the potential to make real sustainable change in their communities. Therefore, volunteering abroad with grassroots organizations is a highly impactful way to give back to communities in need, as these organizations develop and support local projects.
Why Volunteer Abroad
Nearly anyone can find a grassroots organization abroad to suit their interests and passions. Although every grassroots organization seeks to fulfill great needs, they also give volunteers the chance to make a real, lasting impact. Volunteers who chose to volunteer with a grassroots organization abroad are likely to have a crucial role in the development of specific programs or communities. Volunteering with a grassroots organization will also give you the opportunity to witness groundbreaking initiatives that have the potential to solve societal issues for entire communities, and generations.
Grassroots volunteering will prepare volunteers to return to their own communities and promote change in their own way, continuing the grassroots movement even after their volunteer program ends. It is this ripple effect that has the potential to truly change the world!
Volunteering abroad with grassroots organizations will be an immense learning experience. Not only will volunteering teach volunteers the similarities among all humans, but also how to approach difference, such as the social and economic variations within different cultural contexts. Volunteering with grassroots organizations abroad will be a wonderful lesson in empathy to say the least.
Grassroots organizations can be found in nearly every country and city around the world, as there are economic concerns, natural disasters, political stances, or general areas of need everywhere in the world. Therefore, volunteers will have the liberty of choosing their location based on the type of grassroots efforts they’d like to become a part of. While the options are practically infinite, the following are a few of the most unique locations to volunteer with grassroots organizations abroad:
Brazil is abundant in wildlife and rainforests; consequently, it is also home to a number of conservation and environmental organizations that accept volunteers year round. With white sand beaches and vibrant locals, Brazil is one of most loved destinations for volunteering abroad. Brazil’s most prevalent social issue is poverty, so volunteers will be able to spend their time fulfilling the role of mentor, advocate and role-model to people from disadvantaged communities. Those seeking adventure along with their volunteer work will surely be interested in all that Brazil has to offer. Volunteers will be captivated not only by the incredible natural beauty surrounding them, but also by the change they will see happening before their eyes!
Thailand, known for its countless temples, waterfront resorts, and mouthwatering (or eye-watering? the chilis are seriously hot!) bites, is a developing nation waiting for volunteers with open arms and bright, shining smiles. Beyond the beauty and splendor that attracts tourists every year, Thailand still experiences great hardships. Across the country there are individuals struggling with issues such as poverty, statelessness, abuse, and an overall lack of opportunity. Volunteers will be able to work with a variety of grassroots organizations, whether teaching English to at-risk youth, working with endangered species, assisting with conservation initiatives, or counseling refugees. Those who chose to volunteer in Thailand will be amazed at how sincerely admired they are for their dedication and efforts.
India. Characterized by its music, intricate clothing, and breathtaking architecture, India remains the nation with the highest number of people enslaved in modern day times. In addition to this immense crisis, the many other areas of societal concern cannot be masked by the country’s projected economic rise; poverty, corruption, malnutrition, and discrimination only scratch the surface. Those who volunteer with grassroots organizations in India may find themselves improving education in low-income schools, assisting vulnerable children in overcoming life’s obstacles and developing self-worth, and teaching leadership skills amongst groups of youth. India’s people are yearning for volunteers who are willing to lend a helping hand and promote change in their communities, and nation as a whole.
Grassroots Volunteer Work
Grassroots organizations span a broad range of areas, so volunteer placements are varied and vast. Volunteer opportunities with grassroots organizations can range from meeting a need in an orphanage to building homes for villages in the desert. Outlined below are some of the most common types of grassroots initiatives abroad.
Whether in the mountains or the drylands, volunteers are in great need in community development organizations around the world. Community development volunteers may work on building homes, community facilities, schools, and contribute to the development of any other necessary societal structures. Utilizing local materials, such as hay and mud, volunteers will learn all about native building techniques. Volunteers will also often assist with educating locals about eco-building as well as teaching locals about environmental preservation and sustainability.
Some grassroots organizations abroad focus on sustaining local institutions, such as orphanages, community centers, health clinics, and schools, which tend to always seek out international support and welcome volunteers year round. Those who volunteer at grassroots-run orphanages will find that no two days look the same. Volunteers will be focused on improving daily life of local children, planning and implementing activities and programs to supplement their education, and even providing meals.
It is also common for grassroots organizations to center programs on helping adults, by teaching them marketable skills, improving their language skills, increasing their overall literacy, or developing micro-finance initiatives. The ultimate goal of these types of placements is to empower adults to build better futures for their families, both personally and economically.
Benefits & Challenges
The benefits of this type of volunteering with grassroots organizations abroad far outweigh the challenges; the obvious benefit being the opportunity to live in a foreign community and experience the local way of life in a very intimate way. Volunteers will have the privilege of working alongside community leaders, but more importantly, learning from the local wealth of knowledge. This type of knowledge cannot be learned in a textbook!
One of the most challenging parts about volunteering abroad with grassroots organizations are the potential for last minute changes, sudden impediments to program implementation, or urgent unexpected issues. Many grassroots organization don’t have numerous years of experience (and trial and error) under their belt or an established system of operations. These unavoidable issues and systematic limitations have the potential of making volunteers feel underutilized or undermanaged. However, grassroots volunteers are encouraged to initiate open dialogue with their host organizations and to frequently communicate expectations in order to avoid any hiccups.
Those who volunteer abroad with grassroots organizations will have the opportunity to utilize their skill sets to develop meaningful relationships and making real lasting impacts on the communities they serve. Grassroots volunteer work is sure to empower individuals, promote change, and develop future leaders!