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Volunteer for Charity and Work Abroad

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Volunteer for Charity and Work Abroad

The 21st century has seen a sharp rise in the number of people willing to travel abroad to work for charitable organizations. This activity has been dubbed "voluntourism,” since the volunteer gets to experience another culture while ostensibly helping the people they are visiting. However, critics of the practice point to many instances where volunteers make few positive contributions, as well as some types of voluntourism that do active harm.

Ethical and Effective Volunteering

If you are a healthcare worker, a teacher, a carpenter, an engineer, or a scientist, your skills will be in high demand in many developing countries. These are the types of abilities that provide concrete support to those in need. Look for projects that require your specialized knowledge.
If you are a high school student, on the other hand, it’s unlikely that you will be able to make much of an impact on the problems facing your host country. However, during your times as a volunteer, you may make real connections with people of another culture that will impact the way you live the rest of your life. And this, too, can be valuable.
Charities themselves may be able to use volunteers with unconventional skills. For example, an experienced videographer could film the organization’s international work in order to create promotional material for fundraising.
And if you’re willing to volunteer on a long-term basis, you will probably be able to find a charity that will train you to be an effective worker in one of their overseas programs.
Of course, an alternative option is to volunteer for a charity at home. While these opportunities are less exotic, they can be extremely helpful to the organization, and therefore to the people they are working to help. Clerical skills and computer programming know-how can keep a charity’s office running smoothly. Writing ability and graphic design talent can help to create publicity materials. Those with a talent for fundraising will also be very welcome!

Volunteer Situations to Avoid

One of the most popular international volunteer opportunities is working in an orphanage setting. The appeal of making a difference in the lives of motherless and fatherless children is obvious, and this option would seem to be an excellent choice for a volunteer. School groups often gravitate toward these types of volunteer opportunities.
However, many orphanages are not what they seem. In fact, it’s been reported that more than 75% of children housed in some institutions aren’t actually orphans. They have families, but are passed off as orphans to well-meaning volunteers who may be asked to offer financial support. Some of these children have been taken away from their parents and are victims of human trafficking. In these instances, voluntourism is presenting financial incentives for predators, and actively adding to the problems of some developing countries.
Most reputable aid agencies now work to return "orphans” from institutions to their families. In the case of actual orphans, it’s felt that foster care is a better option. Better organizations provide various types of ongoing help for families that need it.
Volunteer to a charity that works abroad – but make sure your contribution is part of the solution, and not part of the problem!

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