Water is one of the most basic human needs. According to some estimates over 780 million people across the world do not have access to clean water, while approximately 2.5 billion lack access to proper sanitation; the scarcity of this most fundamental resource results in around seven million deaths annually. Demand for volunteers is high in all types of water programs, including construction, engineering, administration, marketing, and project coordination and implementation. You can improve lives across the globe by volunteering abroad in clean water projects. Though this type of volunteer work can be incredibly challenging, the benefits you will provide to communities are incalculable.
Why Volunteer Abroad
If you’re looking to truly make a difference during your time abroad, there are few placements that can compare to volunteering in clean water projects. Millions of people in Africa, South America, and Asia spend a large majority of their lives focused on obtaining clean water for their families. Unfortunately, in most developing communities there is an immense lack of education and resources needed to create sanitary living conditions. By contributing to clean water projects abroad, you will be creating a better future for generations in the community you work.
Did you know that close to a million people die each year from water related diseases? Every year in Africa, deficiencies in water and cleanliness kill more people than HIV! Volunteering abroad in clean water projects can help decrease these staggering numbers and improve the overall quality of life for numerous families and communities.
Not only will you save lives and improve living conditions through your volunteer work, you will also receive valuable hands-on training in a variety of professional fields, which can easily translate into your future career. You can gain experience working with NGOs, coordinating and marketing water campaigns, fundraising, or even engineering construction projects or water systems.
Volunteering in clean water projects abroad will illustrate that you have an incredible passion and determination for making the world a better place. This kind of drive can set your resume apart by showcasing your international experience and humanitarian spirit.
It is possible to volunteer in clean water projects all over the world; but some of areas with the most urgent needs, and therefore largest number of water volunteer opportunities, are located in India, Uganda, Cambodia, and Nicaragua.
India. With over 1.2 billion people, finding clean water in India is difficult to say the least, and the population is still growing. Many cities in India lack proper waste management programs, resulting in sewage backups and contamination of water sources. Those in rural areas (about 70 percent of the population) often have no bathrooms, or usage rates are low. Additionally, handwashing is not a common practice in most villages. These issues mean that something as simple as diarrhea can kill over 1,500 people a day in India. Some forms of manufacturing have even slowed, as companies scramble to secure enough water to operate. Volunteers are needed to help implement sanitation and environmental projects in India, to educate the public, teach hygienic practices, and so much more. It is possible to volunteer in water projects almost anywhere in the country, including both rural areas and big cities, like Delhi, Bangalore, and Calcutta.
Uganda. Like much of Africa, a large portion of Ugandans lack access to clean and/or piped water. Though the situation has improved over the past decade, new immigration and a growing population has put pressure on the resources already in place. Since the price for accessing clean water is becoming so high, many communities use local streams and wells as a more affordable alternative. But these sources are easily contaminated, resulting in cholera and dysentery breakouts. Water project volunteers are needed in several regions of Uganda, especially in Kampala and the surrounding areas.
Cambodia. This lesser traveled Southeast Asian nation collects much of its drinking water from rainfall during monsoon season. Unfortunately, the inadequate storage process used for rainwater collection attracts mosquitos and can breed parasites, often causing the spread of disease. Access to treatment and water purification in Cambodia is expensive, and therefore, almost half of Cambodia’s 15 million citizens have no source of clean water. Do to the lack of recycling and sanitation programs in Cambodia, there is trash everywhere (such as plastic bags), which means that toxins seep into the ground and cause additional contamination of water sources. Despite extreme amounts of rainfall during rainy season, there are no proper drainage systems in place in Cambodia to accommodate excess water levels, which complicates the situation further, causing muddy roads which make transport dangerous at the very least. Volunteers who want to volunteer in clean water projects in Cambodia should consider Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, the nation’s two largest cities.
Nicaragua. While its neighbor to the South, Costa Rica, has enjoyed increased development in recent decades, the primarily agricultural nation of Nicaragua is just recently becoming a desirable tourist destination. The country is still one of the poorest in the region, but has one of the highest growth rates. Due to improper waste disposal, much of the surface water is unusable and undeveloped. In many places there are no water management or transportation systems in place, and deforestation throughout the country is also contributing greatly to water issues. Major cities have better access, but volunteers are still needed everywhere, especially in the rural areas East of Matagalpa and the island of Ometepe.
Clean Water Projects Abroad
Since there are so many processes involved in bringing clean water and sanitation to the masses, volunteers can choose among any number of volunteer placements, including construction and engineering, marketing, fundraising, and community outreach, or even medicine and public health.
Construction & Engineering. The digging must be done. The pipes must be laid. The design must be effective. Both of these fields are fundamental in creating a working water system. Building materials, transportation costs, and repairs all have to be considered and managed. Much of this type of volunteer work requires physical labor, in sometimes extremely conditions Volunteers working on the construction or engineering components of clean water projects abroad should be well prepared for these conditions upon arrival.
Awareness Raising & Outreach. This is an essential element of any clean water project abroad. The importance of marketing, public awareness raising and education, community outreach, and fundraising for a cause cannot be expressed enough; these are the drivers that make change possible. Volunteers who choose these types of placements can expect to coordinate events, monitor and evaluate projects, write newsletters and press releases, and manage overall publicity of clean water projects.
Public Health. Unsafe sanitation practices and the spread of preventable diseases are a large part of the global water crisis. Therefore, volunteers are needed to help educate the public, teach basic hygiene skills, test wells and other water sources, and provide affordable treatment to those in need. This may be an especially good placement for those with any medical and public health, biology, or teaching background.
Save Lives. That is the bottom line. Clean water projects abroad help people survive and live better, safer lives. Water project volunteers can help people understand the effects of using unsafe water and teach them how to help prevent the spread of germs and disease. It may seem like common sense to many, but those who lack the education and resources to make clean water possible suffer horrible consequences around the world. No doubt, volunteers brave enough to join the fight for clean water will be heroes to those they serve.
Gain Professional Experience. Clean water is no small campaign, and by no means a useless enterprise. Bringing clean water and clean environmental practices to the world is one of the largest movements on the planet, and also one that is the most difficult to progress. Your participation as a volunteer in clean water projects abroad will give you the real world skills needed to organize, coordinate, and deliver a project. Volunteering abroad in clean water projects can also provide incredible networking opportunities, as well as the chance to increase your knowledge of a new language and culture.