Made famous by two of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars and by the Ebola epidemic in 2014, Liberia is a country that presents volunteers with a challenging, and equally rewarding, chance to give back. Home to over 4 million people, a large percentage of West Africa’s remaining rainforest, and beaches along the coast of the Atlantic ocean, Liberia allows volunteers to explore an equatorial environment, learn about post-conflict resolution, and live in a country run by the only elected female president on the African continent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Some of the most popular places to volunteer abroad in Liberia are Monrovia, Salala, Robertsport, and Kakata. In these cities volunteers can contribute to local communities and also enjoy the beaches and protected forests.
Monrovia, named after the United States’ fifth president, James Monroe, has close to one million Liberians who call the city home. As the most populous city in the country, Monrovia is a city bustling with vendors working at the port, and the accompanying pollution of a city is unfortunately growing faster than its urban planning strategies can keep up with. Volunteers can visit national parks and forest reserves that are within a few hours from the capital.
Salala is a refugee city formed following the Liberian civil wars. Volunteers interested in living outside of the capital can travel two hours north to this city to support programs that allow girls to attend school and have access to education. Volunteer placements in Salala are also popular for volunteers interested in small enterprise development as some programs help women and girls earn an income by supporting activities like sewing and tailoring.
Robertsport is a town at the mouth of Lake Piso on the Atlantic ocean and home to a surf resort. Those who decide to volunteer in Robertsport will likely have the chance to participate in youth mentoring programs, while perfecting their surf skills of course. Are you ready to hang ten and help a child count to ten? Then Robertsport is for you!
Kakata is an economic and cultural hub of Liberia just one hour north of the capital. Hundreds of thousands of acres of rubber plantations surround the city and volunteers can help the city bounce back by helping to build medical centers, for example. This is a great place to volunteer in Liberia for someone who wants to experience a rural village in Liberia without being too far from the amenities of the capital.
Volunteering in Liberia
Some of the most popular types of volunteering in Liberia are placements in health care, environmental protection, youth work, and economic development.
Volunteers can put their building skills to use by volunteering in Liberia in placements that help to construct clinics and homes ravaged by the war, and Ebola. Volunteers can also expect to assist with patient intake for vaccination administration for disease prevention through medical volunteering in Liberia. Another typical volunteer placement in Liberia is in vocational training for women and girls, as they gain more rights throughout the country over time. Throughout any type of volunteering in Liberia, volunteers will be able to contribute to communications and outreach efforts to share their organization’s impact and boost volunteer program participation.
English-speaking volunteers rejoice; English is the official language of Liberia, so you’re in luck! If the people you are working with in your placement have completed their high school education and speak English, you’ll need little to no language training prior to your departure. While English may serve you well in the capital, be aware that once you leave it finding English speakers may become more difficult. However, this is a perfect opportunity for you to expand your language skills.
Volunteer work in Liberia can last anywhere from one week to six months or a year. Many organizations prefer at least a three-month commitment though some offer the opportunity to serve for periods of time as short as a week.
Costs & Affordability
The cost of living is very low in Liberia and volunteers can expect to live inexpensively if they avoid costly imported items. Save your money for the plane ticket and you can live on a few dollars a day by eating locally. A Coke will cost you from $1 to $2 and you can get a taxi in the capital for a $5 to $10. Many volunteer placements in Liberia will provide modest accommodations in exchange for your volunteer work, but if not you can likely find a host family with a room to rent for $100 to $150 per month.
Accommodation & Visas
In the capital, and throughout the country, volunteers should expect very modest living arrangements including mud or cement walled homes with thatched or tin roofs. In rural areas, volunteers can expect thatched-straw housing and no electricity or running water.
Volunteers will need a visa to volunteer abroad in Liberia. Host volunteer organizations will be able to provide documentation needed to prove that the volunteer arrangement exists, though volunteers will be expected to complete the visa process on their own. The typical cost of volunteering abroad in Liberia ranges from $130 to $150 for U.S. citizens for a single-entry visa for one year and $200 to $250 for a one-year, multi-entry visa. The visa process is straightforward, though make sure to follow the directions listed on the Liberian embassy’s website - you don’t want your passport to end up somewhere else!
Benefits & Challenges
High Need. As one of the countries hit hardest by Ebola while at the same time recovering from two civil wars for many decades, Liberia poses a unique set of challenges as a volunteer abroad destination. At the same time, Liberia also offers the chance to work in communities where volunteer’s time and efforts are needed and appreciated. Those who volunteer in Liberia will gain a unique perspective of West Africa and be introduced to a nation with a vast history and exciting future.
Participate in Reconstruction. You can help build health clinics to serve rural populations torn apart by the war or contribute to outreach efforts for an environmental group working to save Liberia’s forests.
Are you looking to gain hands-on experience in a region of the world many people have never been (but that is greatly needed both from a humanitarian and employer perspective)? Do you want to surf in the morning and help a child learn to read or rebuild a health clinic in the afternoon? Liberia awaits!