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Volunteer

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Why not do more than just visit a bunch of old temples and ruins when you travel? It is possible for travellers to improve the lives of people during our trips.

Give

A few ideas are:

  • Take books to drop off at schools in villages you pass through.
  • Rather than bringing back all your clothes, medical supplies and equipment, leave what you can with locals - this also frees up space in your luggage for bringing back other stuff!
  • Support local enterprise.

Consider whether supporting beggars is the best directed form of assistance, or if there is a better organisation to support. If you decide to give something to beggars, consider giving them food.

See also Teaching English.

Volunteer

Volunteering whilst travelling is a great way to 'make a difference' but it's not just about giving. Living and volunteering in a foreign country is a great way to get to know a different culture, meet new people, learn about yourself, get a sense of perspective and even gain new skills.

If you're only on a short trip, take time to visit an orphanage, hospital, etc. Those with more time can contact local NGOs, tourist offices, embassies, etc to inquire about longer term possibilities.

There are several ways to combine traveling and voluntary work:

  • In Europe, young people can participate in an EVS program, European Voluntary Service [1], which allows them to work abroad for 3 months up to a year, funded by the European union at some kind of charitable organization.
  • If you would like to combine traveling and working on an organic farm, the WWOOF-ing - Willing Workers on Organic Farms [2] - might be something for you. You can be sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, making mud-bricks, harvesting, fencing, building, packing, milking and feeding livestock any of 80 countries.
  • A similar organization that includes opportunities beyond the scope of just organics is HelpX [3].
  • If you would like to work in an international work camp for two weeks as an alternative holiday, contact your national branch of SCI [4].

If you pay US or Canadian income taxes, you may be able to take a charitable deduction for some or all of your trip expenses. The IRS is very strict on which organizations' trips qualify, and if you combine volunteer work with vacation, you will have to prorate the deduction on your airfare.

Various agencies of Western governments send volunteers abroad: the US Peace Corps [5], British VSO [6], Canadian CUSO [7] and so on. These are among the best volunteer jobs. All expenses — immunizations, travel, lodging, etc. — are normally covered and there is support — training, medical insurance, emergency evacuation if needed — and some sort of small salary. When you come back, these organizations look good on a resume. On the other hand, these positions are harder to get and usually require a heavier commitment, typically two years.

There are also various organizations that recruit volunteers. These may not cover the major expenses such as airfares and travel insurance. Some charge a fee for placement. A few of these are:

  • Action Volunteer Alliance (AVA)offers affordable volunteer opportunities abroad. [8]
  • AFECT offers volunteering opportunities to assist Burmese refugees in north Thailand [9]
  • Akha Asia has volunteer placements with Tribes and Indiginous Peoples [10]
  • Ikando Volunteer & Intern in Africa [11]
  • Global Vision International (GVI) has worldwide volunteering opportunities [12]
  • Volunteers and Interns for Balinese Education [13]
  • Year Out Group [14], a British organization promoting gap year volunteering
  • Overseas Working Holidays [15], an Australian organization that offers guaranteed placements in regions such as Africa and India.
  • Thai-Experience [16] specialized in placements in Thailand.
  • Travel to Teach [17] with jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
  • Volunteer Abroad [18] offers volunteer programs in Latin America, Asia, and Africa
  • Mundo Exchange [19] non-profit organization for volunteering in Guatemala and Thailand.
  • Earthwatch [20] lets volunteers work on scientific field research projects all over the world for 1 - 3 weeks.
  • Projects Abroad offers a diverse range of volunteer placements in 26 different developing countries - for students, gap years, grads and qualified professionals from 2 weeks and up. [21]
  • The International Humanity Foundation [[22]] works in Indonesia, Thailand and Kenya and is always looking for volunteers.
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