People say that going abroad can change your life.
Whether that is true or not is for you to decide after you come back from that international vacation. If you spent it roasting on the beach, shopping like mad, and binging on local drink specials every afternoon, you probably don’t feel any different.
If you really want a life changing experience, you should explore how to find great international volunteering opportunities.
There are a lot of programs out there, and finding a trust-worthy placement is a valuable way to spend the two weeks (or more) of your vacation every year. Not only will you return refreshed yourself, you will also be forming beneficial relationships with people in other countries.
So you may be asking yourself how to find great international volunteering opportunities? Here are 8 ideas to consider:
1. Your favorite non-profit organization
Maybe you teach English to refugees on Saturday mornings or give money to the Make a Wish foundation. If you already support a non-profit organization and want to travel abroad to donate your time, you should check with them to see if they have programs abroad. (Bonus: you may even be able to write it off of your taxes).
2. Join the Rotary Club
The Rotary Club calls themselves a global network of community volunteers, and by joining them, you can have access to their network all over the world. If you aren’t eligible for membership, you may be able to get them to sponsor you to go abroad. They give scholarships to students to study abroad every year and have volunteer programs as well.
3. Your Church
If you belong to a church, they probably have volunteer opportunities either through the church directly or through other churches in the area. Asking your pastor is a great first step.
One advantage about going through a church is often the trip will be less expensive, because you may be able to find lodging with the people that you are helping directly. It is a great way to understand the problem and make a difference.
4. The Newspaper
Of course you shouldn’t just go to the scene of some disaster unless you are invited to go, but after the situation stabilizes (and a lot of the international aid workers have left), they will be begging for people who can help to rebuild the area.
Your newspaper will likely be running stories about what is happening one year after a major earthquake or fire, so use this as a resource to help you know where to go.
5. Ask Your University
A lot of alumni associations have information about further education vacations and some even offer volunteer opportunities. This is a great way to help your university get its name out to people around the world.
6. Join a Professional Organization
Whatever your industry, they probably have a professional organization associated with it. By joining your professional organization, you’ll get access to a network of people all over the world, (and a subscription to their magazine). Many of these professional magazines give you information on how to help people all over the world.
7. Check with the Embassies
A lot of Embassies offer information for volunteers who want to come to their country. By asking them what they need, you can get information directly from the source.
8. Get a Group and Offer Your Services
If you still don’t know what you want to do, get a group of your friends or colleagues together and offer your services. You can put an advertisement on a volunteering board describing what you want to do.
When choosing a program, it is important that you pick an established company that has been in business for a couple of years. That way all of the kinks that are often associated with some of the initial trips are worked out.
(Don’t forget to visit The Complete Guide To Volunteer Tourism)