Volunteer Work Abroad: Your Ticket To A Meaningful Contribution

“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” Anne Frank

Why Should You Volunteer Abroad

I feel that genuinely helping others is one of the greatest forms of fulfillment that you can experience. Ghandi has said that the best way to find your self is in the service of others, and I agree. Living a life of service will give you deep personal fulfillment that will transform you and the community you contribute to. My favorite thing to do is traveling and immersing myself in new cultures. Volunteering abroad can be your ticket to an amazing experience of personal fulfillment and contribution.

When you think of volunteer work overseas the first step in giving shape to your adventure is to understand your reasons for volunteering in the first place. Choosing the right volunteer program involves evaluating your own ideals and personal needs and then finding the program that matches those needs the best. Having a clear understanding of your motivations and cultivating the right attitude can make your volunteering experience an amazing opportunity for personal growth.

Things To Think About Before You Volunteer

Long Term: Are you looking to volunteer work overseas for several years? Going through the Peace Corps requires a 2 year commitment. If you have never traveled abroad make sure you understand what you are getting into. Two years will seem like five if one month into your program you realize this is not your cup of tea.

Short Term: 3 – 12 months, do your research for which programs will suite your ideal time frame.

Alternative Travel: This could be a two week vacation where you volunteer by taking care of leatherback turtles in Costa Rica.

Working Overseas: Maybe finding a normal job in a new country and volunteering  on the weekends is best suited for you.

What are your motivations?

  • Your at a cross roads in your life and don’t know what to do next?
  • You want to help feed the hungry.
  • You want to help build homes for the less fortunate.
  • You want to have a long vacation.
  • You want to experience new people and cultures.

Evaluate The Organization: When doing your research make sure you do your homework on the program and try your best to see if it will meet your purpose. Here are a few things to think about:

  • What is the political or religious affiliation of the organization? Will this be a benefit or pose some problems for you?
  • What is the organizations mission statement?
  • What are the programs goals? Are they congruent with your goals?
  • Who funds the organization?
  • Who does the organization work with? Is it through local or national entities?
  • Will the organization provide any training?
  • Will the organization provide you with a living stipend or room and board? What expenses can you expect from participating?

Depending on the program you find volunteer work overseas can end up making you money or costing you hundreds to thousands of dollars. To help you prepare here are a few of the main costs to plan into your budget.

Potential Costs:

  • Transportation ( flights, trains, etc)
  • Program fee
  • Housing Costs
  • Food Costs
  • Transportation during stay
  • Communication costs: Internet access, postage stamps, or phone cards.
  • Spending Money
  • Medical insurance
  • Visa Fee: If needed for your stay.
  • Medicine
  • Travel Gear
  • Departure Taxes
  • Passport

Finding the right program will take some time, but with so many out there you can be sure to find something that will suit your needs. To get you started below is a list of some International Volunteer Service Organizations. Good luck and I wish you the best on your journey of contribution. Here are some posts that I have written that can assist you on your meaningful adventure: How To Make The Leap Into The Unknown , Leave America Become a Vagabond , and How To Deal With Being Lost In Translation, Top 10 lessons I learned as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

International Volunteer Opportunities

  • Latin America In Movement : The Latin American Information Agency (ALAI, for its Spanish acronym) is a communications organization committed to human rights, gender equality, and citizen participation in the development and public affairs of Latin America. ALAI’s work is dedicated to the democratization of communication as a basic condition of democratic life and social justice.
  • Amazon-Africa AidAmazon-Africa Aid is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization supporting the Fundação Esperança, a Brazilian nonprofit organization that has been providing health and education to the inhabitants of the Amazon for over 30 years. We rely heavily on volunteer and donor support.
  • American Friends Service Committee : The American Friends Service Committee carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Founded by Quakers in 1917 to provide conscientious objectors with an opportunity to aid civilian war victims, AFSC’s work attracts the support and partnership of people of many races, religions, and cultures.
  • American Jewish World Service : is an international development organization motivated by Judaism’s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality.
  • AMIGOS : Founded in 1965 in Houston, Amigos de las Américas (AMIGOS) is an international, non-profit organization that provides unparalleled leadership and community service opportunities for young people while concurrently contributing to the well-being of hundreds of communities throughout the Americas.
  • Amizade Global Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs : Amizade empowers individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning.
  • Child Family Health International (CFHI) : is the leading nongovernmental organization (NGO) placing health science students on global health education programs in ways that are socially responsible and financially just. We model best global health education practices which demonstrate a priority commitment to community engagement and local integrity.
  • CrisPaz : CRISPAZ is a faith-based organization dedicated to building bridges of solidarity between the Church of the poor and marginalized communities in El Salvador and communities in the US and other countries through mutual accompaniment, striving together for peace, justice, sustainability, and human liberation.
  • Community Agroecology Network (CAN) : CAN is an international network connecting farmers, consumers, students, and educators to create an alternative globalization where people, healthy food systems, and environments come first. Our research and education programs support conservation – both of the land and people’s livelihoods – through sustainable agriculture and alternative market channels.
  • Doctors Without Borders : Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters.
  • Crossculturalsolutions.org : Our Mission is to operate volunteer programs around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives, bringing people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding. We are an international not-for-profit organization with no political or religious affiliations.
  • Global Routes :  Global Routes is a non-governmental, non-sectarian organization committed to strengthening our global community through voluntary work overseas. To this end, we design foreign exchange programs based on community service, bringing people with different world views together.
  • Global Vision International (GVI) : Global Vision International (GVI) was formed in 1998 to provide support and services to international charities, non-profits and governmental agencies, through volunteering opportunities, internship programs, training and direct funding.
  • Global Volunteers : Global Volunteers is a private, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-governmental organization engaging short-term volunteers on micro-economic and human development programs in close partnership with local people worldwide.
  • Hands For Help Nepal :  Since its inception, Hands for Help Nepal has been deploying many volunteers from various countries to respective projects and placements within Nepal. It’s volunteer programs in Nepal include programs for teaching, environmental awareness, helping deprived children, community support, health services, cultural exchanges and youth empowerment. This organization has been mandated by the Nepal government to mobilize communities towards sustainable development.
  • Interplast : Interplast has transformed lives for 40 years! It was the first organization to provide free reconstructive plastic surgery for the poor in developing countries and began at a time when the field of plastic surgery was still evolving.
  • Global Exchange : Global Exchange takes a holistic approach to creating change. With 20 years working for international human rights, we realize that in order to advance social, environmental and economic justice we must transform the global economy from profit centered to people centered, from currency to community.
  • Crooked Trails : Crooked Trails was founded on the premise that tourism does not have to threaten the cultures and environments of popular destinations and fragile regions. As an educational non-profit organization, we create true cultural exchanges that make positive contributions to host communities and have lasting effects on our travelers.
  • Volunteer Travel
  • global citizens : Global Citizens Network seeks to share and promote the values of peace, justice, tolerance, cross-cultural understanding and global cooperation by providing opportunities for cross-cultural expeditions with indigenous peoples around the world.

10 Responses to Volunteer Work Abroad: Your Ticket To A Meaningful Contribution

  1. Just found this blog and it’s rocking! Although I am not into going on long volunteer trips, I have found my passion by helping people online, which just started this year and has changed my life pretty dramatically. This is an awesome resource and an awesome post! 🙂
    .-= Henri´s last blog ..Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Job, Yet =-.

  2. I just got back from a volunteer travel journey with Mission of Love (www.missionoflove.org). I invite anyone looking to make a meaningful contributuon of their time/energy/resources to consider lending their talents to Casa Guatemala – an orphanage and rural school located in the Guatemalan jungle, on the Rio Dulce, not far from the Belize. These trips are transformational. I’ve done a dozen trips like this and I’m happy to share information.

  3. i am for volunteerism. it is a win-win situation for me. you get to help others and you grow and mature in all aspects. but its a task that needs true dedication and excellence. volunteers need not be mediocre.

  4. Ivan,

    You are a wonderful expression of a human being. Good for you, and us. I am 26 and have been on the spiritual path for many years and have a lot in common with you. Thank you for the valuable articles and sharing yourself so authentically. If you need a travel companion ever, let me know!


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