Everything You Need to Know About Volunteer Abroad Programs

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

In the last decade, technology entirely changed the course of our civilization. It’s impressive to see how many technological upgrades we had during the previous ten years in many fields. With the recent rise of social media, our communication channels changed entirely and people around the world are more connected than in any point of history. It’s easy to conclude that technology made our lives easier from many aspects, but still, are we using it wisely?

Statistics show that people became more isolated than ever, even if social media can literally connect you with anyone in the world in seconds. How’s that possible?

People don’t use technology right, or they simply don’t see the potential modern technology has. Majority of the world’s population needs better education on technology usage. With the rise of the internet, our computers became an ultimate source of information. It’s time to understand that this information is power!

An Insight to Defeating Statistics Not Many People Are Talking About

The beating statistics explaining the big problems our world is facing
People selling fish on the streets of Tanzania

It’s critical to know the numbers before we dig deeper into the topic. Today, more than 800 million people don’t have access to a clean water source. That leads to roughly 2,500 dying children each day due to diarrheal diseases caused by impure water.

Around one billion people don’t have a stable source of nutrients which leads to the assumption that around 11% of people are malnourished. It is not surprising that the majority of those people live in third world countries.

According to the latest statistics, around half of the world’s population live on an income that is less than $2.50 per day. Take into account that these $2.50 need to provide food for large families in developing countries.

These are only some of many statistics available that show something is going wrong in the world. If you consider those three statistics, it’s easy to conclude that at least one-third of the world’s population is suffering. That situation hindering a whole segment of the population and it’s obvious these problems happen in developing countries.

How’s building new petrol cars with stronger engines or announcing new smart technologies every year possible, but we’re failing in solving the situation of meeting the basic needs of half the population on our planet? You see, we absolutely have an advanced technology and resources to solve the world’s problems, but it seems it’s still not our global focus.

If you think rationally, it’s not hard to conclude that we have the wrong focus. Coming back to the beginning of the text where I mentioned that majority of people are using social media in a wrong way, then we can also imply that technology advances, in general, is used in a wrong way.

Technology is improving in an exponential way, however, the same cannot be said about solving the world’s problems. There are some initiatives and positive changes, but there is a long way to go.

With technology at our hands, social media channels, and vast resources, we simply must do more! We’re born under the premise that all human beings are equal, right? How can you be ok with that assumption if you’re aware of the fact that almost 800 million people can’t lead a healthy lifestyle because they don’t have enough nutrients?

Why Do Third World Countries Suffer?

Why do third world countries suffer
This is the scene from African rural village

One main cause originates back to the colonial era. It is evident that world power countries colonized the majority of third world countries. A few countries were and still are using most resources in the world for their own benefit.

Many developed countries are plundering valuable resources from formerly colonized countries to improve their own economies. This unbalanced situation is leading to political instability and the high corruption levels we can see today.

That’s a huge problem for developing countries, and if we want them to grow and prosper, we need to treat them fair and help them to overcome the past. Another important factor to the world’s inequality are the birth rates. Third world countries have a significantly higher birth rate than developed countries.

What could be a reason for that? Well, people lack primary education, contraception isn’t available (or a taboo), and infant diseases are prevalent.

All this is leading to the conclusion that a family living in absolute poverty has more kids on average. It’s tough to support a huge family without access to necessities like clean water, food, elementary education, infrastructure, and technology.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” - Nelson Mandela

If third world countries can somehow get access to advanced technology, it will lead to many positive changes. Technology can more easily provide better information that can lead to better education of the unprivileged people. The more educated a population is, the faster it can overcome its own problems like corruption.

Only then it can improve its infrastructure, provide high-quality food, clear water, and proper medicine. Education alone can solve most problems around the world-historical and current ones.

The World Can’t Succeed Without Your Help

Work together for better tomorrow

You might think, you are just one in around 8 billion, but your actions and knowledge could have a significant impact on the world’s development. Right now, we know that the major problems in third world countries are related to the lack of knowledge and technology. The western world has the best access to technology and expertise, so it’s not surprising that they are also leading in literacy and education level.

There is a considerable gap and inequality between privileged and underprivileged communities. You can be the one who is reducing that gap and making the world more equal. It may sound like something impossible, but believe me, it’s more than possible.

There are many volunteer opportunities abroad where people are giving away their resources in the form of money or time to help in the development of third world countries. If you can’t live with the fact that people suffer just because they were born in the wrong place, it’s a perfect time for you to help!

What is Volunteering and Why Is It Important to Communities Around the World?

What is volunteering and why it's crucial for some communities?
You're actively improving the communities around the world with the investment of your time and energy

A small minority of population realized that we, as individuals, are only small parts of the world. Most people see their own lives as the most important, but it’s crucial that we realize there is a bigger picture. That bigger picture is a better balance, greater happiness or global well-being.

We can look at the world as a huge organism with billions of parts and interconnections. If you put yourself into that perspective, you can soon conclude that no organism can live without a balance. If there is an imbalance in an organism, it means the organism is sick. While being sick, an organism cannot progress and can only harm itself.

If we continue with doing and looking at things the way we’re doing now, then we can’t expect a positive change. A positive change could be achieved through volunteering, but what is actually volunteering?

According to many sources, volunteering is an activity where an individual provides his own labor resources to a non-profit organization or community without being compensated.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi

As you already know, the world is facing many problems, and a significant part of its population could benefit from the resources of one person like you. Everyone can become a volunteer and contribute to make the world a better place. No matter your skills or education, you can still help with building a balance between your awareness and time.

Keep reading as you’re going to learn about the benefits simple participation in volunteering project can have on the individual.

Why Should You Try and What are the Benefits of Volunteering?

What are the benefits of volunteering?
No matter the race or circumstances, people are generally compassionate and understand each other

It becomes evident when people start traveling around the world, learning about new cultures and meeting local people, their perspectives and understanding changes. It may be harsh for you to realize the situation in third world countries if you’ve never visited one or talked with people from these countries.

I’m not saying that only third world countries have problems, that’s not true as every community could be better with the help of positive people. Look around your own neighborhood and you will quickly find circumstances you could improve. The best way to start volunteering is by checking local non-profit organizations if they’re looking for help on specific projects. What could be a better introduction to volunteering then seeing how your own work impact your local community?

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” - Dalai Lama

Once you realized that the help from a single person could provide your community with many benefits, there are high chances that you may try volunteering on a higher scale – a global one.

Travel mindfully is the most convenient way to learn about the world, get a closer insight of global issues and have life-changing experiences from your travels. I encourage you to travel to a remote or developing country, talk with locals, help them and try to live like them. That’s by far the best way to put yourself in their shoes and perspective.

Every mindful person should try volunteering once in their lifetime. The reason is that volunteering can teach you so much about the world. It's known that experience teaches the best; it makes you truly understand how life is for people with no books nor a reliable source of information. Volunteering is a crucial activity for your personal development as it can literally change you as a person in a positive way.

There are many benefits of volunteering, including:

A deeper understanding of the world and people surrounding you – Volunteering, especially if you’re helping out communities outside your local environment, can teach you so much about people and their culture. If you travel to a remote third world country and help solve their problems with the resources you have, not only you will promote their life, but also, you will learn about their culture, traditions, and perspectives.

It’s like a puzzle – with each experience, you will get a deeper understanding of the core of the problem, and it will be easier for you to look at things from different angles. Volunteering can definitely lead to more positivity, mindfulness, and happiness in society. In the end, you reap what you sow.

Developing your skills and interests – No matter on what type of volunteering activities you’re working on, your skills will become better in that field. If you have an idea that volunteering is only working on physical projects, you’re wrong.

You can help communities or organizations with your professional skills and make a lasting impact in the world. For instance, if you’re a professional internet marketer, then you can help social-impact organizations to reach wider mass and reach their goals.

If social-impact organization reach their goals, it means that you did an excellent job in helping people in need. That way, you’re not only helping people in need but also, you’re developing your skills, building connections in your field and getting new ideas. That kind of volunteering is known as pro-bono consulting, and I’m going to talk more about it in a further text.

Happiness around the place
Volunteering has amazing benefits for you as well as for communities where you're doing a volunteer work

Positive changes on your mental and physical health – Whenever you’re working on a volunteering project, you can expect that you’ll be surrounded with positive and like-minded people who have the same goal as you – making the world a better place for everyone!

Imagine an impact that environment will have on your mental health and confidence. First of all, you’ll connect with awesome people who have real-life experience and who can teach you a thing or two. Also, these friends can connect you with other people, and that’s an awesome way to build your network.

During volunteering, many participants reported their level of self-confidence increased due to well-being and feeling of affiliation. If you’re working on a physically demanding project, there is a huge chance that you’ll be in the movement for a whole day.

The movement has many benefits including improved productivity, alertness, higher testosterone levels, improved health and much more. It’s easy to conclude that volunteering positively impacts you from all aspects.

Gives you a sense of higher purpose – Many people go through life without a purpose. They have goals to be rich, successful, you name it, which is all related to material things. It’s a fun ride of course, but what’s the purpose of that? Many people reported they don’t feel like they found their higher purpose in life.

To find a higher purpose, you need to realize that you’re not the center of the universe and there are bigger things than what’s going on in your life. When you start volunteering, and after you realize that your time invested actually helped someone, it gives you a sense of higher purpose. It gives you a sense that we’re all connected, and we should help each other as it’s the way to make this world a better place.

So, what do you think about volunteering now? Do you plan to get yourself involved in a volunteering project near you soon? If so, keep reading as I’m going to provide you with different types of volunteering projects you can work on.

Types of Volunteering Projects

Volunteering is a wide term, and it’s hard to define types of volunteering projects. There is no a single or official classification that can put volunteer work in different classes. However, some aspects differ volunteering projects, and it’s important to address these differences.

The reason is that some people have a wrong idea of volunteering and it’s crucial to provide these people with the right and up to date information on different types of volunteering opportunities. I get that some people are not attracted to a general idea of volunteering, but there are different ways to invest your resources in promoting the quality of life on a global scale.

It’s important to mention that it’s not an official classification as many sources have different names and classifications. After long research, I will provide you with my classification based on different sources that will give you the basic ideas of available options when it comes to volunteering. 

What is Traditional Volunteer Work?

Traditional volunteering has many benefits on local communities

As the name suggests, traditional volunteering is basically known to the majority of us. It represents the idea of helping local communities with your resources. That can be any activity and can be performed by most people without any further knowledge.

How to get started and find your first traditional volunteering project? Well, the best bet is to check a local non-government organization and see which projects they are currently working on. Depending on the community, the number of available projects can vary.

If you’re an adventurous soul who wants to learn about different cultures and traditions, then you should definitely check what volunteer opportunities are available abroad. The best thing is that no contract or agreement can hold you to the project. You can decide how much time you want to devote to a particular project.

Also, there are one-day projects like collecting food or working at an orphanage, and there are projects that last for longer periods. Each project has its own benefits, and this type of volunteering is pretty good for people who want to try it for the first time.

There is no commitment, but the change in the local community is evident after you’re done. Check out your local non-government organizations, ask them if they have any on-going projects and simply apply. There is no wrong time to volunteer and the only wrong time is not to try!

What is Voluntourism and What Are the Benefits?

Help locals to achieve their dreams and travel mindfully around the world
Voluntourism became popular in the last few years and it basically allows mindful traveler to experience different places around the world while actively helping on improving the communities

Voluntourism combines two important activities which are volunteering and tourism. To be clear, I’m not talking about mainstream tourism here, but tourism in the sense of exploration and learning. There is a huge difference between mindful tourists and regular tourists and I believe that if you’re here on the site and reading this article that you’re not a regular tourist.

It’s easy to combine traveling and volunteering as there are many non-government organizations with ongoing projects around the world.

Also, if you’re interested in helping people to make their dream come true, you’re free to participate and find the most suiting voluntourism opportunity. People who’re mindful tourists have a strong drive to learn and expand whenever they find themselves on the road.

What could be a better way of learning about the world, then helping and participating in projects that focus on improving the life of local communities? You may ask how volunteering can help you learn about the world. Well, you’re faced with the problems these people are facing on a constant basis.

That way, you can connect with them and understand their struggle. You will become a more mindful person with different understanding and perspectives about the world.

Another form of voluntourism is helping private people achieving their dreams. There are many platforms and people who need help with building houses, providing their family with food and clothes, helping in a household who will gladly host you and provide you with food in exchange for your time.

You can volunteer abroad for free and live with family while helping them to reach their goals. It’s a fantastic experience that can give you new insights into different cultures and people as well as connections. Also, you can expect a free accommodation, food and location guide while your stay.

How Can You Help With Your Professional Skills? Pro-Bono Consulting is the Answer!

Skill based volunteering is an amazing way to make idea happen
You can help social-impact organizations to reach their goals with your specific professional skills

Volunteering can be different than you can imagine. Most people have an idea of volunteering as helping local communities directly with your hands and time. That’s the most common way of volunteering, but as the recent technology development, there come many interesting options, and one is called pro-bono consulting.

If you’re a professional and you have skills that can help organizations around the world, then you’re the right candidate to find a suiting pro-bono consulting opportunity. To provide you with the information for a slightly better understanding of what pro bono consulting is, let me share with you one example.

Adrian decided to quit his corporate job after many years in the industry and start with traveling and working from the road. During his trips, he stumbled upon few social-impact organizations where he volunteered by offering his services without being compensated in salary.

These companies only covered his basic costs of living like accommodation and food, and he needed to work as a part-time freelancer to feed his wanderlust soul with new adventures. By now, he helped few social-impact organizations to achieve their goals which refers to the positive impact of local communities.

He worked for a few social-impact organizations on pro-bono projects including:

Angaza – The company that focuses on providing affordable energy products to 1 billion people who’re living in third world countries.

iCow – The company put efforts in educating African farmers through digital channels which will increase the food production for communities in highest need.

Dharma Life – The company’s primary focus is to decrease poverty rate in India through upgraded rural entrepreneurship.

Alternatively, you can help different organizations with your professional skills through the internet thanks to a technology upgrade. No matter what professional skills you possess, you can find projects where non-profit organizations need help with managing their social media, building their sites, writing compelling content, mentoring, teaching kids your language, making translations and much more.

You can improve your current skills or learn new skills participating in pro bono, or so-called skill-based volunteering. Also, that kind of volunteering won’t only help local communities, but also, you will get a nice experience, and it will look awesome on your resume. Also, the connections you’ll get and people you’ll meet along the way will be priceless.

How to Travel With Almost No Money?

Sitting at Tiger's Nest
There are many options to travel around the world with tight budget, so don't let the money be the reason you're not exploring!

Many people gave up the idea of traveling and having adventures of their life because of various reasons. The most prominent reason is facing their fears or widely known as stepping outside of comfort zone. Well, this one could be a trickier to overcome, as it’s mainly in your head.

Many articles are explaining why and how to step outside your comfort zone which can really help you. The best possible advice is to have an open and positive mind. That way, you can expect awesome adventure and you will actually start to grow as a person.

We’d like to explain the second reason in more details here. What could be the second reason people gave up the idea of traveling, huh? Well, as you may already assume, it’s money.

How to get enough money to simply “ditch” everything and travel around the world?

Let’s start with some harsh truths. We’re living in a global world where internet changes everything. Traveling in the last decade was a bit more complicated and expensive, but today, there are different ways to travel that could be sustainable for any budgets.

Many opportunities in today’s world enable people to travel at low or no cost at all. We need to use the Internet smartly, and we will be amazed how much valuable information we can find there.

In the last couple years, there is a rising trend of digital entrepreneurs called digital nomads who travel around the world and work from the road. Yes, with the right knowledge and skills, you can basically earn money from your laptop. All you need to possess is a laptop that can connect to the internet and reliable internet connection.

Check out these digital entrepreneurs who’re making huge sums of money while traveling and learning about the world.

Digital nomad lifestyle is a long-term career, since building a successful business online could and would take time. What about shorter-term traveling?

Working from Tibet
My "office" in Lhasa, Tibet

Volunteering can give you the adventure of your life for almost no cost at all!

There are many volunteer platforms available that are offering interesting volunteering opportunities abroad that are almost free. Again, you need to do proper research, outreach some people, agree on terms, buy a plane ticket and have a life-changing experience.

Volunteer opportunities can vary in price, so you can expect that some programs will require you to invest a fair amount of money in enrolling while other programs will get you fully-covered.

Have you ever thought of giving your time and energy to people and communities that need your help instead of only looking for your own benefit?

For example, SEA countries are facing the huge educational gap. People from low-income families who’re living in rural places don’t have enough money to pay for the education of their kids. The results? These kids don’t have a choice in life, and they are “forced” to work on a farm or similar physical demanding jobs that pay so little. Imagine that life and how hard it will be for these kids to raise a family or succeed in life.

Many international volunteer programs provide you with accommodation and food in exchange for English teaching lessons. You don’t need to be a native speaker, but still, you can teach English abroad for free and give the kids a chance they otherwise wouldn’t have.

You’re actually a missing puzzle that fills the gap between rich and poor, between rural and urban.

That is only a one way how you can travel and live in different countries while volunteering.

We will provide you with the ultimate information and guides on volunteering platforms that will definitely help you in broadening your horizons. You will start to notice opportunities on each step wherever you find yourself.

Keep reading as we’re about to go into more details!

How to Find Interesting Volunteer Abroad Opportunities

With the help of many volunteering platforms, finding the right volunteer abroad opportunity isn't that hard anymore.
With the help of many volunteering platforms, finding the right volunteer abroad opportunity isn't that hard anymore

So, you’re interested in giving your time and energy for free to improve the quality of life of people in need? That’s awesome, and we really admire you for doing that.

Once you strongly decided that you want to participate in volunteering, you need to find and arrange the project you’d like to work on. How to do it?

Well, there are many ways, but the most effective and reliable one is by checking the volunteering platforms that provide you with opportunities. There are many platforms, but not all of them are reliable, so it’s crucial to find a trustworthy one.

Steps in finding a reliable volunteering project through Internet:

What are the reasons you want to volunteer in the first place? Are you looking to volunteer for your selfish reasons to travel or you simply want to help people in need? Don’t worry; you’ll probably have the best experience of your life while volunteering abroad as you’ll be surrounded by open and like-minded people from all over the world. We encourage you to have sound reasons to volunteer before you decide to leap of faith.

What are your skills or fields you’re good at? How can you help the community with your time and energy? Remember there are many types of volunteering projects and you can actually help social organizations with your professional skills. Write down all your skills and interests. That approach will provide you with a clear idea of projects you should be looking for.

Find a reliable platform that offers many volunteer projects. If you keep reading this guide, we’re going to provide you with 10 reliable volunteer platforms and their honest reviews, so you could easily decide which one suits your needs and preferences the most.

Find few projects of your genuine interest. Since you already have listed your skills and interests, it won’t be a hard task to find few projects that could have a real benefit from your time and energy. Check out all the information about the place, working hours, the price of enrollment, required a period of working, unique skills, etc. If everything suits you, then you’re ready to outreach the responsible person or company.

Get in touch with responsible people and talk further about details.

That’s basically all the steps you need to take before starting to volunteer abroad and work on something bigger than yourself.

Antonio Gabric a freelance content writer for aSabbatical.com
Traveling is the best way to learn about the world and cultures. It changes your mindset and you see possibilities everywhere.