Children are the future, as the old adage goes; truly, there is no better way to make an impact on the world tomorrow than to help the youth of today. With an estimated billion children living in poverty in the modern world, youth volunteering abroad can not only change someone else’s life, but your own. Whether you want to get involved with youth education, outreach, athletic programs, orphanages, or youth with disabilities, there are numerous opportunities to volunteer abroad with youth. Many of youth organizations are under-staffed, and therefore rely on international volunteers to aid in daily operations, which allow them to fully assist, educate, and empower youth.
Why Volunteer with Youth Abroad
Youth volunteering abroad is not always instantly rewarding, and often not without challenges; but in locations where a future career, educational opportunities, and even a meal cannot be taken for granted, youth tend to be all the more appreciative of any assistance or resources they receive. Individuals who enjoy working with children and youth and are interested in learning about a different way of life will surely be satisfied volunteering with youth abroad.
With low funding, most orphanages and youth centers need volunteers support in a variety of ways, from leading after-school activities to tutoring and helping children complete their assignments. Volunteers relieve pressure from overworked permanent staff members, meaning the whole system of youth development and community activities can run more efficiently and effectively.
Youth volunteering poses a fast-paced, always-changing environment, no matter where you choose to volunteer abroad. It’s a placement that requires people who are passionate about imparting wisdom onto young people and have the patience to make it happen. If you’re interested in seeing different parts of the world through the eyes of a child, youth volunteering abroad may be the best way for you to experience another country in an entirely impactful way.
Underserved or at-risk youth are unfortunately present worldwide, but especially in areas experiencing political strife, extreme poverty, and disease epidemics. Understaffed youth and community facilities are in constant need of volunteers in low-income areas and large cities all over the world, where disparities often leave millions of young children to fend for themselves or with limited access to essential resources to succeed.
Countries in Southern Asia, including Thailand, India, Nepal, and Vietnam, attract volunteers because of the beautiful climate, and because the overpopulated cities are home to millions of children living in poverty. In Thailand, school-aged orphaned children live in homes run by local families, operating on very limited funding. While in India, volunteers will have the chance to work with toddlers in daycare centers or youth with disabilities who don’t have access to proper educational opportunities.
In many Latin American countries, children live in poverty just blocks away from some of the richest people in the world. Peru has a large culture of “street children,” and therefore agencies which attempt to help rehabilitate street children so they can enter into the school system. In Nicaragua, volunteers may assist the large network of Catholic organizations that care for orphans and children abandoned or abused, often in relation to the drug trade. Chile has several well-established youth foundations, including several that involve the use of equine therapy for children with psychological disorders.
Countries in Africa have some of the highest percentages of orphans in the world, largely due to a lack of healthcare. Uganda has an estimated one million orphans living in various group homes or with relatives; volunteers are badly needed to teach children and youth, as well as assist in building new youth facilities to keep up with local needs. Tanzania has an estimated 2.6 million orphans, 1 million of those resulting from AIDS deaths alone. In some cases, volunteers are the only source of one-on-one personal attention for these children.
Youth Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering with youth abroad can look immensely different based on your area of interest and what type of placement you work in. If educating young people appeals to you, there is always a need for teachers in nearly every age group and subject, especially in poor and underserved communities. With or without a teaching license, volunteers can get involved in the classroom in various roles and provide important support for overworked teachers, often contributing to more focused, personal attention for needy students.
Youth volunteering abroad at day care centers or in after-school programs is an excellent option for those interested in less formal educational settings. Many countries have mentoring programs for at-risk youth throughout needy communities, which provide perfect placements for international volunteers. Volunteering with youth in this capacity may include conducting after-school tutoring, leading athletic or recreational activities, and providing basic care for young children. Whether leading an arts and crafts session or helping a child learn how to use a computer, even the simplest form of youth volunteering in these programs can have a wide-reaching effect on the future of local youth.
Another popular option for youth volunteering abroad is working at an orphanage or group home. Volunteers in these facilities are often jack-of-all-trades types, helping to prepare meals, assisting in clerical work, and working with children to complete their schoolwork all in the span of a day. Group homes and rehabilitation centers are nearly always underfunded, so volunteers will help fill the gap between what the staff and funding can provide and what the children need to grow up healthy and happy.
Youth volunteers are most needed in facilities for children with disabilities abroad. In developing nations, children with physical or developmental disabilities have very few resources afforded to them and their parents often do not know how to properly care for them. Therefore, in some countries there are centers in place to help support families, by providing day care services, educational activities, and, in some cases, physical or other types of therapy at minimal costs.
There is no greater satisfaction than knowing you have put a smile on a child’s face. For many children around the world, the future is uncertain, including where they will sleep, what they will eat tomorrow, or how they will care for their siblings. In many cases, adult responsibilities fall on the shoulders of those too young to even help themselves. For children in unfortunate circumstances, that leave them without access to the tools and resources they need to be successful, volunteers can be an enormous contributor to future success, happiness, and provide the attention they need to develop properly. Hence, youth volunteering abroad can be a highly rewarding placement option as well as one that is of great need in the world today.
Volunteering with youth abroad combines two great passions: travel and helping children. Working with children is a unique way to introduce yourself to a country, culture, and language, and one you will never forget. Changing the life of a child by helping them learn English, leading them in a sport, inspiring them, or teaching them a craft is a simple act that can fundamentally alter who you are, almost as much as you will alter the future of the child.