Volunteering Changes Livesby Robyn Tellefsen
Are you interested in cross-cultural education and international development? Are you searching for an eye-opening, life-changing experience? Consider volunteering abroad, where you can make all the difference in the world.
When searching for volunteering abroad opportunities, you can look to an organization based in your home country or one based in a foreign country. If the organization is located in your home country, it will probably be easier to establish contact and receive timely pre-departure information. If the organization is based abroad, communication may prove challenging. On the other hand, in-country organizations are often smaller and less expensive, and provide greater opportunities to work directly with the community.
When seeking volunteer abroad opportunities, eliminate unnecessary hassles and work with an established placement organization. These types of organizations already have relationships with community groups abroad and compensate them for the time they spend training volunteers.
Length of Stay
Volunteer programs may be as short as one week or as long as two years. Short-term programs are usually easier to arrange and require less preparation; long-term programs may offer more responsibility and even free room and board or a housing stipend.
Though one-week volunteering opportunities do exist, communities typically benefit most from a long-term commitment. If you're planning a short stay and you're lacking in language skills and technical knowledge, reconsider your motivation for volunteering. You don't want your volunteer work abroad to be a burden to the community rather than an asset.
It's no surprise that volunteer abroad free programs are unpaid, but you may even have to pay a minimal (or substantial) program fee to participate. Many smaller organizations rely on program fees to support their work in the community. Program fees typically include administration, orientation, and on-site support services. You may also be required to pay for your airfare, in-country transportation, and room and board. You will almost always have to purchase your own health insurance and cover the cost of your visa.
Links to Academia
Volunteering does not need to be related to your academic interests, though it can be especially meaningful if it is. Volunteering abroad can open your mind to a direction you had never previously considered in your studies, or to a new career interest altogether. Since most volunteer work abroad is not academic in nature, however, college credit is generally not granted for the experience unless the work is part of a research project or directed study. If your volunteering is done for academic credit, you may be eligible for financial aid. Contact your program coordinator to learn about eligibility requirements for volunteer work abroad.
The Company You Keep
When it comes to volunteering abroad, it's important to consider the people with whom you'll be working. Depending on the organization, you may spend most of your time working alongside other volunteers, or you might spend your days interacting with community members. If you're especially interested in culture and language immersion, look for volunteer work abroad that will allow you to work side by side with local citizens.
Volunteer abroad and change lives - especially your own.