Volunteering abroad is a great way to see the world, build your resume, and make a positive difference in the world. What’s the only thing that could possibly make this better? How about fitting in more than one country on your trip? A multi-country volunteer program not only offers you more time to travel, but also gives you exposure to more than a single culture, language, cuisine, and perspective. Volunteering abroad in multiple countries is an incredible way to see the world and leave a meaningful set of footprints upon its surface.
While there are volunteer projects in all corners of the world, different geographic areas need different sets of hands. Each region comes with its pros and cons, so balance weather, food options, types of placements, scenery, and wildlife accordingly.
Caribbean & Central America. Golden beaches, blue skies, thick jungles, mighty mountains, and fresh fruits are just a couple of the things that await volunteers in this region of the world. Since there are many different types of landscapes and cities within a compact area, there are volunteering opportunities for everyone in these two regions. A multi-country volunteer program could start with a week in Granada, some time in Haiti, and end with a stay in Guatemala or Costa Rica. As the getaway paradise of the world, it won’t be difficult to indulge in vacation views and activities while doing something meaningful for mankind, the animal kingdom, and Mother Nature.
Southeast Asia. There are plenty of picturesque do-good volunteer opportunities in Southeast Asia that should be included on any traveler’s bucket list. Great weather, Buddhist temples, and the best curry in the world combine to make any trip fantastic. In Thailand, there are beach resorts in the south, Bangkok in the middle, and an old cities with amazing ruins in the north. Cambodia gives volunteers the option to hike through Angkor Wat and help out with projects that are still combating the consequences of the Khmer Rouge. In Vietnam volunteers can bike from place to place, visiting Hanoi and then taking a break in Halong Bay.
East Africa. Countries in this part of the world have recently been struck by disaster and are in need of aid. Nations like Rwanda and Tanzania provide many volunteer opportunities in food programs and education, but keep in mind that conditions are not always easy and volunteer placements can be a little more challenging. If you’re more about nature and animals, the jungle, savannahs, and coastal scenery provide incredible opportunities for encounters with animals (lions, elephants, and flamingos, oh my!) in environmental and animal conservation projects.
Multi-Country Volunteer Programs
Multi-country volunteer programs usually offer a variety of projects in each country, so the nature of the work changes as the pace of travel does. Experiencing different types of volunteering (and places!) provides invaluable input on what to focus on in future humanitarian trips, so dive in with an open mind, heart, and hands!
Nutrition. With children at risk for starvation around the world, volunteer projects that work to combat hunger are in extremely high need. Nutrition volunteer placements are mostly located in African regions and throughout South America. Volunteers can help serve food at centers and educate locals on micro and macro nutritional needs. While a lot of nutrition volunteer projects can be frustrating for volunteers because they don’t see an immediate impact, feeding programs are among the most satisfying because volunteers really help bring malnutritioned children back to life.
Teaching. What does every kid around the world hate, no matter where they’re from? Homework. Across the globe, tutors are needed to help children who are struggling or falling behind in their classes. Not only do volunteers help students with homework, but they also teach them how to think critically and solve problems. Volunteering as a teacher abroad can leave an impact on children for the rest of their lives, as they’ll utilize new skills and develop fresh perspectives because of your hard work.
Wildlife Conservation. Preserving the world’s natural beauty and resources is a great opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change. One aspect of doing a multi-country volunteer program is that it takes place across several places and depicts how conservation is a global effort that affects everyone, everywhere. Start with sea turtle preservation in Costa Rica, then tackle coral reef work in Belize, and finish the tour off with an education conference on poaching in Panama.
Costs & Affordability
The worst (only bad?) part about multi-country volunteering and traveling abroad is the cost of it. Depending on the locations, flights can be expensive and volunteer projects may carry a hefty price tag. However, program fees seem like mere pennies when you see smiles on children’s’ faces, giraffes nuzzling at the sunset, and seeds starting to sprout.
In general, multi-country volunteer programs come at a steeper price than single country programs; this is to compensate not only for transportation between countries, but also to help fund the programs and staff themselves. In some cases, multi-country volunteer programs may seem cheaper, but then you learn that volunteers have to travel independently between countries and regions. It’s useful to do research about what is included in the program and where your money is going to be sure you get the best deal.
Program costs also vary by geographic location. Multi-country volunteer programs will probably be cheaper in developing countries than in Europe, as will daily spending costs. No matter where you end up, it’s smart to create a budget and stick to it as much as possible to keep track of what you’re spending money on. Sometimes volunteers arrive, realize that the exchange rate is amazing, and end up spending more than needed. Again, check what’s included; if meals are paid for because volunteers are staying with host families, then don’t worry about budgeting for food.
For help raising money to pay for your multi-country volunteer trip, check out Fund My Travel and start a fundraising campaign.
Accommodation & Visas
In order to volunteer on multiple projects in several countries, accommodation and visas are needed. Make sure to do proper research so that there aren’t too many bumps in the road between projects, and time can be dedicated to helping, rather than hindering.
For most multi-country volunteer programs, housing is provided. Most multi-country programs will provider accommodation with host families, who will offer a warm smile and delicious home-cooked meals in addition to a roof over your head each night. However, there are also dormitory options or hostel stays, depending on which part of the world you’re in. For those looking to immerse themselves as much as possible and learn the language, stick with the authenticity of homestays and treat yourself to a few extra conversations over the dinner table.
Visa requirements depend on the countries volunteers decide to go to. For the most part, tourist visas are sufficient, as they are valid for 60 to 120 days in most countries. Keep in mind that each country has different visa fees and paperwork, so it might be helpful to consult your local consulate or embassy to properly plan the diplomatic portion of your trip.
Benefits & Challenges
Culture Shock. A big part of visiting underdeveloped countries is culture shock. Whether that’s getting used to how the locals go about doing their work or accepting local superstitions, it will likely take some getting used to. There’s no need to understand, but it will help to accept these “unusual” aspects of foreign lifestyles as something that is completely normal in other parts of the world.
Length. A lot of multi-country volunteer programs last for a longer amount of time to account for the time spent on transportation between countries. Some multi-country volunteer programs even last for up to six months, which will require lots of preparation and potential upkeep of rent and jobs back home. However, longer trips also minimize carbon footprints, educate thoroughly, and touch more parts of the world, resulting in higher levels of happiness.
See an Entire Region. Multi-country volunteer programs immerse volunteers in the cultures of various countries, in addition to giving them a global perspective that is hard to get from going to just one place. Take some time and see how the issues you’re helping combat are interrelated across borders; it’s something not a lot of people realize.
Volunteering is one of the few ways to see the world and get a warm fuzzy feeling on the inside that only comes from making a difference. Build your resumé, learn a couple new languages, make friends for a lifetime, and broaden your horizons by extending your volunteer commitments beyond a single country’s boundary.