MORE PEOPLE ARE INTERESTED in experiential travel these days than the list-checking ways of the traditional tourist. Volunteering abroad has become a top choice for those who want to see another part of the world but do something to enrich it. Catching on to the trend, hoards of for-profit volunteer programs have popped up, offering a chance for tourists to think they are doing something charitable. With these for-profit volunteer groups deceiving foreigners so easily, it has become difficult to feel confident in a volunteer program at all. If you are looking to see a different side to another culture while doing more good than harm, here are some of the top ethical programs to look into.

All Hands Volunteers

This U.S based, non-profit organization focuses on disaster relief for communities affected by natural disasters.

What They Do

  • Respond: This organization quickly leverages volunteers and communities to quickly respond to the needs of those affected by natural disasters. For example; removing rubble after an earthquake or gutting and mucking after a flood.
  • Recover: They use volunteers to help reestablish important community centers like schools, homes and dare cares.
  • Renew: The program works to become part of the affected communities by running useful programs like movie nights for kids, English lessons and holiday parties.

What Makes Them Unique?

  • Creative problem solving that adapts to the needs of the actual people that the program seeks to help.
  • Finding the greatest need to tackle first so those who need the most help get it.
  • A collaboration with local, international and national partners to get the best results.
  • Long-term solutions are created and implemented to get the best results.

The Programs

  • Haiti Hurricane Response: Clearing damaged schools and rebuilding learning centers.
  • Louisiana Flood Response: Removing debris and mucking damaged homes.
  • Ecuador Earthquake Response: Removing debris and building earthquake resistant homes.
  • Nepal Earthquake Recovery: Putting families back in homes and kids back in school while conducting projects like masonry training, water catchment systems and school reading projects.

For Volunteers

This program comes at no cost for volunteers. While you will have to pay your own way to whichever destination you choose, you won’t have to pay any hefty program fees. The program also provides;

  • On the job training
  • 3 meals on work days
  • Basic accommodation
  • Support and logistics for conducting volunteer work.

Maximo Nivel

Offering volunteer programs in Peru, Guatemala and Costa Rica since 2003, this organization is locally based with a focus on helping local communities.

What They do

They offer a wide range of programs to help the communities meet their needs in different areas of their lives and work. These include volunteer work involved with:

Medical/healthcare

  • Indigenous communities
  • Animal Care
  • Eco-agricultural
  • Construction
  • Teaching English
  • Conservation & Environment
  • Working with Children

What Makes Them Unique?

They offer real growth to their volunteers in terms of career and skill goals. Volunteers can earn university credits, take Spanish language classes, do internships and even do study abroad programs through them.

The Programs

  • Working With Children: Providing attention and education to underprivileged children, helping with homework, teaching good hygiene, running activities and playing sports with them.
  • Teaching English: Teaching English skills to help children get out of poverty. This will take place at schools, churches and community centers.
  • Conservation & Environment: Working with biologists to protect endangered species, sustainable farming, environmental awareness and reforestation.
  • Medical & Healthcare: Work with doctors and nurses to help out in hospitals, HIV centers, clinics and assisted living facilities.
  • Construction: Build and repair community centers, homes and schools.
  • Animal Care: Work in shelters to provide medical care, training, exercise and cleaning to abandoned animals.
  • Eco-agriculture: Help out on small and sustainable coffee plantations.
  • Indigenous Communities: Live and work with an indigenous family and help with caring for livestock, construction projects, weaving and working with children.

For Volunteers

This program starts at $595 and goes up from there depending on the amount of time that you wish to volunteer. While it isn’t free, they pride themselves on being affordable and extremely transparent about where the fees are used which includes accommodation and meals. Some benefits to volunteers include;

  • Airport pick-up
  • Accommodation with host family
  • Breakfast and dinner every day of the week
  • Program and safety orientation
  • Walking tour
  • Letter of recommendation
  • Certificate of volunteer service
  • Wifi and computer lounge
  • Salsa dance lessons
  • Cooking classes

Orphfund

What They Do

This volunteer run organization works to help abandoned, orphaned and vulnerable children all around the world. Their grass roots and self sustaining efforts are used in community projects that offer health care, nutrition, support, shelter and education to children.

What Makes Them Unique

Their grassroots ideals make Orphfund distinctly unique. They also work to reach out to the neediest children first to make sure that those who need the most help are able to receive it. Another unique aspect of the group is that they create children’s villages, micro-villages within a larger one where children can grow, learn and play.

The Programs

  • Sierra Leone: Helping out in several of the children’s villages, working with Ebola infected orphans, and helping farmers become more sustainable.
  • Uganda: Helping in the children’s villages, boarding school, primary school and on local farms.
  • Kenya: Providing assistance in the children’s villages, pre-school, and educational programs.
  • Cambodia: Assisting children in the primary schools.
  • Tibet: Helping impoverished children in Lhasa.

For Volunteers

Programs last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. Each location gets between 1 to 2 projects a year that can be worked on. Volunteers must raise funds before coming to volunteer but 100% of the money will be used towards the project. Volunteers must pay for their own travel expenses as well as food and accommodation. Benefits include:

  • Assistance with finding accommodation and settling in
  • On the job training
  • The ability to apply for longer and more heavily trained project placements
  • The chance to create your own project

Volunteering abroad can be what you need to learn valuable skills while seeing another part of the world. Give yourself the opportunity to do some good on this planet while seeing something new all at the same time through one of these programs.

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