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Volunteering with Street Children Abroad

Volunteering abroad with street children can be a great way to give back to a community, share your teaching skills, serve as a role model, and have a lot of fun! There are millions of street children in need of attention all over the world, but working with street kids does not necessarily mean volunteering with children who are homeless or orphaned. Due to a lack of proper medical care, limited or no access to education, and forced or necessary child labor, volunteering with street children abroad may entail working with parents, providing general child care, teaching, or encouraging socialization.

Why Volunteer Abroad

*Important: Here’s a list of 23 questions to ask before volunteering with children abroad.

If you love kids, want to help the less fortunate, and have a great deal of creativity, patience, and energy to give, volunteering with street children abroad could be a great fit for you! While street children populations (and the programs that help them) will be entirely different depending on the country you volunteer abroad in, all volunteer work will involve elements of education, support, and a lot of role modeling. Affection and positive reinforcement are both keys to volunteering with street children abroad. 

Recreation, affection, and time can have an immense impact on these children who have been deprived of many of their rights. A child can also provide you with a lot of insight into a new culture, so put your creativity and caring nature to service by volunteering with street children abroad!

Locations

Volunteer work with street children can be found in both rural and urban environments, but is typically in areas with minimal resources and high levels of poverty. Ecuador, India, China, the Philippines, and many nations throughout Africa are great places to spend your time volunteering abroad with street children.

In Ecuador, many volunteer programs with street children focus on helping kids who are working in the markets or forced to sell goods on the street. Volunteer work focuses on basic hygiene, allowing the children time to socialize with peers, basic education, arts/crafts, sports, as well as basic play time. Volunteering in Ecuador, or other Latin American countries, also allows you to put your Spanish skills to use (or learn some Spanish).

Opportunities to volunteer with street kids in India are prevalent, with an estimated 10 million street children in India alone. Many street children volunteer placements will focus on teaching basic social and life skills and hygiene. Some volunteer placements in India can also include informal English teaching. The slums can be an overwhelming site, but your time and energy can be a ray of light for the children who live there.

China and the Philippines are two other Asian countries with large populations of street children, and large populations in general, so if you’re looking to head further east, consider either one as an option for volunteering with street children.

Africa is another common region to find volunteer work with street kids,especially in Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. Day cares, orphanages, and community centers are all typical volunteer placement institutions. Those with musical talent or computer skills may also find themselves teaching their skills to street children. Assisting children with special needs is also a common type of volunteer placement with street children in Africa.

Volunteer Work with Street Children

Volunteers can share their skills by helping with literacy programming, motor skills, homework, hygiene habits, behavior modeling, and leading activities (both social and physical). Choosing a international volunteer program working with street kids requires a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and flexibility. Children are unpredictable, so if you like a lot of structure and predictability, this is likely not the right fit. Expect to follow a programming structure set up by the organization you are working with, but willingness to learn and flexibility as you go are key. 

Setting & Focus. Volunteering with street children in a market setting is a common type of volunteer placement. Other placements might include a dump site, day care, shelter, rehabilitation center, or at a school. The majority of street children are unable to attend school, so volunteers can expect to do anything from teaching, tutoring, and educating the kids, to planning activities and crafts or working with them in the community on larger projects. Healthcare can also be an integral part of volunteering with street children abroad, as in many locations diseases are prevalent and care or aid is non existent. 

Tasks. Sometimes organizations just need volunteers to assist them with organizational tasks, management of programming, basic cleaning, or administrative tasks too. You might even be tasked with playing sports or simply reading books to the children. Each volunteer program will have different needs and children they work with.

Duration. Volunteer placements can be as short as one week (sometimes only four actual days of volunteering once training and orientation are done) and as long as one year or more. Each is volunteer program can usually be customized to the volunteer’s desired length of time.

Experience is rarely necessary to volunteer with street children abroad, as time, energy, and a positive attitude can have a big enough impact and almost any volunteer can share basic education with the kids and make them feel more significant and loved. Every volunteer should come into the experience prepared to laugh, share, and lend a helping hand, and with a good amount of patience!

If you do have medical or nursing training, this can be a huge bonus for volunteer organizations that need support with more technical health aspects, like dispensing medications, dressing wounds, or creating medical charts.

Benefits

  • Play! Volunteering with street children allows you to have a lot of fun. Many volunteer programs involve socialization and play to help the kids have a more balanced childhood.
  • Make an Impression. Any type of volunteering with young people allows you to serve as a role model and your actions and words will have an impact. As such, be mindful, caring, and encouraging. You have the power to give these kids vision for the future!
  • Gain Experience. Interested in education or working with children as a career? Volunteering with street kids abroad can provide insight and experience in the field that will help you determine if it’s a good fit.
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