4 ways to volunteer abroad

volunteering abroad

Discovering new cultures, feeling useful, gaining international experience, getting out of your comfort zone… Many reasons might lead you to begin thinking about volunteering abroad. Because there is a very large amount of NGOs and various organizations which offer volunteer opportunities, finding the right program might be tricky.  What are your goals? When and for how long do you wish to volunteer? What is your budget? Before you decide to take part in a specific humanitarian volunteering project, explore your options!

1. You are a European citizen: European Voluntary Service (EVS)

The SVE program allows you to take part in many types of non-profit projects focusing on various themes such as health, heritage and environmental protection, youth information, social exclusion, anti-racism/xenophobia or civil protection. Though most projects take place in Europe, volunteers also may travel to other countries which have signed agreements with the Youth in Action program (Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon…). To participate in the EVS, you must get in touch with an accredited organization in your home country. The organization database is available on the European commission website.

How does it work?

To take part in the European Voluntary Service you must:

  • be between 18 and 30 years old (some EVS opportunities are open from the age of 16 or 17),
  • live in a EU-member country or in a country which has signed an agreement with the Youth in Action program.

Volunteers leave for 2 to 12 months (2 weeks to 2 months for volunteers under 18). Expenses in the host country usually are fully covered: accommodation, meals, and health insurance. As for travel costs, volunteers only support 10% of the total cost of the trip. Volunteers also receive a monthly allowance whose amount usually varies between €140 and €210, depending on the country of assignment.

2. You enjoy working as a team: international work camps

Helping Ecuadorian women learn to read, working on a path made for the blind in a Russian natural park, taking care of elephants in an Indonesian wildlife reserve… Taking part in an international work camp will allow you to help others while discovering a foreign culture and making new friends. An international work camp brings together a small group of young volunteers from all over the word, supervised by a camp leader. A very large amount of organizations in different countries offer work camps abroad: make sure you pick your project carefully.

How does it work?

To volunteer in an international work camp, you must usually be at least 16 years old and in some cases, there is no age limit. As a work camp mostly lasts between 2 and 3 weeks, this is an adequate option if you wish to volunteer during your holiday. Nevertheless, the experience can be rather costly. As a volunteer, you won’t receive any allowance and you will have to cover travel and visa costs on your own. Take a close look at the participation fee: the cost of travel insurance isn’t necessarily included.

3. You want to go on a humanitarian trip: NGOs

Many NGOs work with volunteers interested in taking part in humanitarian work projects in developing countries. However, whether you wish to leave for a few days or a few months, the entire trip might often turn out to be quite pricey. Be sure to check the participation fee details: rip offs are frequent! Travel, visa and insurance costs often aren’t included in the fee.

4. You are experienced: UN Volunteer

In 130 countries, UN volunteers may work play important roles in the area of development assistance or during humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. Volunteers assist populations in countries facing famines or natural disasters, contribute to raising awareness of various infections, help support the development of agricultural practices which respect local ecosystems… Applications to be a UN Volunteer must be done online.

How does it work?

To become a UN Volunteer you must:

  • hold a university degree or higher technical diploma,
  • have 2 years of working experience in a professional background in demand,
  • share the UNV program values,
  • be at least 25 years old,
  • have a good knowledge of English, French or Spanish.

Assignments usually last between 6 and 12 months and can be renewed. Volunteers receive a settling-in-grant and a resettlement allowance (paid at the beginning and at the end of the assignment), a volunteer living allowance, payment for travel expenses, life, health and permanent disability insurance and annual leave.

To find out more about volunteering abroad:

Take a look at the UN Volunteers website.

Date of publication Mar 3 2014

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