Volunteering offers so many benefits beyond the obvious one of helping people and communities in need. It’s a valuable chance to connect with others, with research studying the link between volunteering and happiness finding that the more people volunteered, the happier they were. It can also provide a structure and purpose in life, help reduce stress, keep participants mentally and physically engaged, and offer opportunities to meet new friends and expand your skills set.
So what if you took volunteering one step further and combined it with overseas travel? There are many models that facilitate getting volunteers to the places they’re most needed and suited – some are arrangements whereby the volunteer pays a company to organise the volunteering holiday, while others are assignment-based where certain costs such as flights and accommodation are paid on the volunteer’s behalf.
As with any undertaking, it’s important to do thorough research and make sure the experience is the right fit for you. Ask lots of questions, and evaluate if what you’re about to commit to is likely to match your expectations and abilities.
To get you started, here are a few ways you can make a positive impact on the world at the same time as you explore it!
Projects Abroad has over 25 years’ experience in placing volunteers in their quest to make the world a better place. Their foundations are safety, hassle-free travel and making a real impact, with their projects ranging from one week to 12 months and anywhere in between – the choice of how long you stay is yours.
Their ‘Grown-up Specials’ are designed for volunteers aged 50 and over, many of whom are wanting a career break or searching for a meaningful way to spend their retirement, with participants having the option of being sent to Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Projects include childcare volunteering in Nepal for students at disadvantaged schools, hands-on community work in Ecuador and assisting with the Khmer Cultural Project in Cambodia.
The Australian Volunteers Program is an initiative of the Australian Government – for over 60 years it has given skilled Australians the chance to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods in the Indo-Pacific region through locally-driven, sustainable development.
They require volunteers across a range of assignments, using skills in business, media and arts, youth development, education and training, health, science, engineering, architecture and skilled trades.
Their volunteers are supported with return airfares and relevant visas, insurance, medical assessments and vaccinations, access to 24-hour emergency support, living and accommodation allowances and more.
Founded over 20 years ago, GVI runs programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each manned by their own staff and aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives of their local partners.
For over 14 years they have been helping older adults to find their passion for volunteering with projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Australasia, all containing a unique blend of cultural immersion and exploration. With focuses on marine and wildlife conservation, childcare, animal care, health care and teaching, there is something for everyone.
If you’re after a dash of adventure with your volunteering, Earthwatch might just be the charity for you! There are different options for a variety of physical abilities, and you can easily find the right one using their search function.
Earthwatch brings together world-class scientists with individuals from all walks of life to work for the good of the planet and gain a greater understanding of the need for action.
Expect to work alongside the scientists to combat some of the planet’s most pressing environmental issues such as marine debris projects, data collection of Humpback whales and trials for a cure for the devastating Black Band coral disease.
Have you got business nous and general smarts you’d like to share with the world in a mentoring capacity? Australian Business Volunteers came into existence in 1981 when the Australian Government sought to use the business skills and experience of newly retired Australian executives. It has since completed over 5,000 development projects across 34 countries, implemented by volunteers from its registry of senior business professionals and small business owners.
Most costs associated with the volunteer assignments are covered including flights, insurance, visas, accommodation and a modest daily living allowance, with assignments ranging from two weeks to three months in duration.
Remember you’re donating a precious commodity in your time and skills, so go forth and make sure you enjoy yourself while you explore the world and experience different cultures.
When volunteering is done right, the change will not only be in the communities you travel to, but also in yourself.