Facing the injustices of the world in an honest way is not an easy or heart-warming task to say the least; it is extremely difficult to stare injustice in the face and take on the task of effectively overcoming impediments which stand in the way of equality. However, it is a task that is required for the world, nations, and communities to progress, therefore volunteering abroad for human rights projects is a very popular international volunteer placement. Volunteers who are ready to accept the challenge and engage with local communities to uphold the rights of all or promote the rights of a specific group, will truly make a difference through human rights volunteering.
Why Volunteer in Human Rights
The world has come a long way in establishing certain rights for all human beings, so that every individual can be treated with a certain level of fundamental dignity. But there remains much work to be done in the field of human rights in many nations. By volunteering abroad for human rights, volunteers will have the rare chance to make a tangible, positive, and lasting impact on foreign communities. Actions speak louder than words, quite literally in the case of human rights movements, so stand up and take action in whatever area interests you!
Most human rights campaigns are focused in developing countries, as these tend to be the regions where rights are most frequently withheld from specific populations. From Central America to Africa to the Middle East and India to Southeast Asia, human rights volunteering is possible around the world.
Locations where international organizations have a strong footing in local communities and are actively involved, tend to be the most popular places for human rights volunteering abroad. It is not surprising as well, that many placements in the latter areas of the world will involve a focus on low-income families and communities with layers of disadvantage piled on top of one another.
Developed countries have their fair share of human rights issues as well, so certain areas of North America, Europe, and East Asia also present opportunities to volunteer abroad in human rights. Though volunteers will find that a good portion of the population in these regions live freely and comfortably, they will also find that there are many individuals who are left behind or forgotten by governmental systems and society at large. Working with homeless, elderly, immigrant, or minority populations in these areas are all very viable options, and provide opportunities to positively impact the lives of many individuals.
If you do not already have a location in mind where you would like to volunteer abroad, then conduct in-depth research on which areas of the world are currently struggling with issues which personally resonate with you. The type of human rights work you might engage in will vary greatly depending on the region you choose.
Human Rights Volunteer Programs
Some human rights volunteer program providers act as entirely independent organizations, while others work closely on the ground with local NGOs or grassroots organizations to implement programs. Other organizations will specialize in one particular area or work with one particular vulnerable population, spearheading a more comprehensive effort at social reform on a variety of levels within a specific community.
Gender inequality, ethnic tensions, corruption, violence, human trafficking, malnourishment, infrastructural failures, extreme poverty, lack of basic education, and lack of access to healthcare facilities, are just a few of the very real social problems which plague countless communities across the globe.
For example in Tanzania you might work in women’s empowerment, in Pakistan you might work with refugees, or in India you might work in slums educating youth and adults. More research and administrative tasks may be required of volunteers in some placements, such as gathering informational data, conducting interviews and field studies, and leading campaigns, and of course volunteers will be expected to work hands on with local community members to promote action and change.
Typically it is left up to the volunteer to decide how long they want to volunteer abroad in human rights. Some human rights volunteer programs only last a few weeks, others blend volunteer work in human rights with other travel programs, and there are certain placements that require up to a one-year commitment, usually because the placement requires volunteers to take on more responsibility in the organization.
Benefits & Challenges
Volunteering abroad in human rights advancement in a foreign country will not only allow volunteers to promote positive change within a community in need, it will provide volunteers with the chance to develop genuine, lasting relationships with the local people and the cause, all while undergoing immense personal growth through understanding the struggles of other people.
No matter who you are or where you are from, it can be daunting to uproot your life, travel far from home, and live for an extended period in a place where inequality is prevalent. But the bigger the challenge the bigger the reward, and volunteers will find that volunteering abroad in human rights provides personal rewards just as much as it provides rewards for the communities they serve.