Whether you’re planning a sabbatical from work, looking for a new life experience, or doing a gap year there are plenty of rewarding ways to volunteer overseas. Here are ten ideas to get you started.
1. Teach English
English is still the global language and many volunteering positions require no formal teaching qualifications – simply a good grasp of the English language. Often, you also have the opportunity to help out in other areas, such as teaching drama, sport or music. How long you spend in the school, and how many lessons you’re expected to teach a week, will vary from placement to placement. It can vary from two weeks to two years.
2. Work with animals
From helping elephants in Africa to protecting pandas in China, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities for animal lovers. Placements range from game-keeping to building animal shelters to working with endangered species.
3. Sex education
According to the World Health Organisation, 60 per cent of all reported HIV/AIDS cases come from sub-Saharan Africa. If this figure is going to decrease, sex education classes are vital. Teaching Africa’s next generation about contraception, STIs and sexual health will help to change attitudes and save lives.
4. Become a medical volunteer
Skilled volunteers who have expertise in particular field have much to offer, so there is demand for medical practitioners of all kinds from nurses to physiotherapists. Medical volunteering opportunities are also great for students looking to gain some experience in the field. Healthcare is often neglected in poorer countries so volunteers have an important role to play in helping people who usually don’t have access to it, to get the care they need.
5. Save the planet
With a range of habitats and species under threat globally, the opportunities for volunteering for a conservation project are plentiful. Working outside and in tropical climates isn’t for the faint-hearted but the benefits of hands-on work in the great outdoors are physical as well as mental.
6. Work on water
If you’re more a water baby than an earth mother then a marine conservation project might suit you. From volunteer diving to coral reef conservation, there’s many ways to get your feet wet (boom tish!). Marine conservation can help secure the livelihoods of coastal communities as well as protecting marine resources. You could also find yourself assisting with scientific research.
7. Teach sport
Are you passionate about the beautiful game – or any other sport for that matter? If so then coaching is a fantastic way to pass your skills and enthusiasm on. There’s a range of schemes under which you can travel and teach at a range of places from sporting academies to local communities.
8. Build a school
Getting your hands dirty on a labour-intensive and practical building project is an incredible way of making a difference. Projects are available even if you have little or no experience of this kind of work – all you need is a willingness to work hard and a reasonable level of physical fitness.
9. Make Music
Put your musical talents to the test and help anyone from children to other people in communities to discover the joys of organised sound. Work available can range from individual tutoring to teaching group classes of children. Music can be used to help explore emotions and understand other art forms, but of course it is vital you play an instrument before you embark on it - air guitarists need not apply.
Checklist - Before You Go!
- Vaccinations: Most places you visit outside of Europe will require you having one or more vaccines. Speak to your GP about what’s required.
- Contacts: Make sure you have contact details for not only the person you’re meeting at your destination but other organisations like the embassy and airline
- Insurance: Play it safe and get travel insurance that covers everything from illness to lost luggage
- Money: Work out a budget for the trip before you go
- Paperwork: Find out whether you need to get a visa and leave yourself plenty of time to sort one out. If you are volunteering with children you may also need to undergo security checks.
- Passport: Check the expiry date - Without it, your trip won’t even get off the ground