If you want to try your hand at something that’s going to change not only your world, but also someone else’s, volunteering abroad might be for you. It is an amazing undertaking that allows you to travel, learn and most importantly, help others.
The first thing that you can do is start thinking about ideas of how you’d like to help. If you graduated with a degree in biology or nursing, there are plenty of health programs available, which will allow you to work in small or larger infirmary’s around the world. If you graduated with a degree in languages, perhaps you could teach in a small city or rural school where the students will learn about another language and culture that may very well lead them to do amazing things later. If you graduated in some other field, or didn’t attend university at all, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you find something that you believe you might be able to help with. Maybe you have landscaping experience. You may be able to help out doing environmental work; building irrigation systems or water cisterns that will help a village have running water.
Now that you know there are a plethora of available opportunities that you can choose from, you might want to start thinking about what areas you’d like to help. Maybe you’d like to see explore opportunities in Thailand or Indonesia after the horrible tsunami. Perhaps you’d prefer Africa. One thing you might do is to start off thinking about different areas, instead of specific countries. It may not be so overwhelming if you think about world geography split up into regions, such as West Africa, Central America or the Pacific Islands.
After choosing an area (or even a couple) at first, you’ll need to do some basic research. Guidebooks are a great place to begin. However, instead of buying them, spend some time in a bookshop. Nowadays, they all seem to have cafes with sofas for your reading pleasure. Any search engine on the Internet will also give you a wide assortment of results regarding specific regions of the world or individual country information.
The Internet can also lead you to different chat areas and/or newsgroups where you can read about different people’s experiences in a variety of countries. Post a few messages and begin chatting with experienced volunteers. While there, you’ll start to learn more about different volunteer programs, along with gaining insight about the countries they served. Those who’ve already completed such volunteer programs would be responsive to any of your questions, and maybe lead you towards a great program – that’s just how volunteers spread the word!
So, while thinking about how you’d like to make a difference, don’t become too overwhelmed. It’s ok to take your time. There will always be people who’ll need an extra hand; and therefore, always a need for volunteers. Don’t be ashamed if you find yourself opting one country over another because of personal reasons (i.e. I’d like to go somewhere warm. I’d like to be in the desert. I don’t think Central Asia is for me). Remember, a happy volunteer is usually a beneficial one. Maybe after your first stint, you’ll want to keep traveling and completing different volunteer opportunities or internships. Maybe then you’ll decide to go somewhere harsh or more difficult. Start out slow. You want to make sure that you enjoy your stay, because then you’ll be the one helping others decide where they too can make a difference in a beautiful, but needy planet, where we all will one day offer a helping hand to others.