Guest post by Joe Johnson: Joe was a volunteer back in his travelling days and would recommend it to anyone. He’s looking forward to his yearly Lanzarote holidays and will we be on the lookout for possible volunteering opportunities on the island.
Volunteering is one of the most fulfilling activities anyone can do, giving something back to the world is a unique feeling and one that many unfortunately never get to experience. Combining the experience of volunteering to that of travelling around a foreign country can be wholly enriching, but many forgo their dream either because they’re wary of embarking on such a journey, or because they’re simply not aware of the possibilities that await them.
The traditional perception of volunteering abroad is that of constructing housing in developing countries, and while volunteers are still in demand for this type of work, the possibilities for volunteers have diversified in recent years. There are several varied opportunities out there for those that are willing to spend their own time to collaborate with, working together to promote a better way of life for local communities, and a life-changing experience for volunteers.
Here are five different ways to volunteer:
Construction: As mentioned, the construction and maintenance of new and existing homes in the Global South defines volunteering for many and is still arguably the most sought after type of work. Many developing countries in Africa and Asia suffer from poor infrastructure, not just a lack of housing, but also adequate water and drainage systems which give rise to poor sanitation, ill health and disease. Work can even be carried out on hospitals and schools, meaning that volunteers who stay long enough have a chance to make a real difference and improve the lives of potentially hundreds if not thousands of people.
Wildlife: Volunteering isn’t all about helping people, there are many species of animal all over the world that require special care, and often there isn’t a resource in their country of origin. One of the most well known types of animal-based volunteering is caring for Elephants in Thailand. This involves bringing these majestic beasts back into their natural environment (many having faced long, hard years of work) and helping to feed, whether, bathe and care for them. Many find this highly therapeutic and this type of volunteering is obviously perfect for animal lovers.
Teaching: Those who are fluent in or have English as their first language have a great opportunity they may not have even known about. Volunteer teaching is an opportunity available in many countries including Kenya, India, Argentina and China, allowing people to see that world and make a difference; those looking to teaching as a future career can also accrue valuable experience. There are also many schools across the world that offer paid English-teaching positions to non-native speakers. South Korea in particular runs numerous such programs, and while each one differs, workers can often expect their accommodation and travel to be paid for – again both parties mutually benefit. While not strictly volunteering as most positions are paid, this is a great way to not just to teach the language itself, but to educate about the culture, history and geography of your home country.
Nature/Conservation: The impact of global warming upon the world is a subject ever more at the forefront of people’s minds, and for this reason, conservation volunteering is becoming more and more popular. Programs are often run by green charities who have a vested interest not just in carrying work like building nature reserves and clean-up projects, but in educating the wider public about green issues. You might want to help to make the world a greener place with TCV.
Community Building: Community building often takes place in more developed countries in areas where there are deep rooted social problems. Although inhabitants of developed countries are able to meet their basic needs, they can still be deprived in other senses, drug and alcohol abuse can leave lives in ruin and children neglected by their parents or involved in crime are faced with bleak futures. Volunteers can work with people from such communities, helping them basic skills to get them back into work, such as in the case of Volunteering England.
Have you ever volunteered? Do you know of any other ways to help out aside from the ones listed here? Please share your thoughts below!