International volunteering while on a Big Trip is a great way to experience local culture and open your heart to others, and, if you’re there long enough – even make a difference. But how does one do it? There are many organizations and articles out there to find the best program and begin to do it on your own big trip. I’ve volunteered three times in India on my Big Trips and can recommend the experience and these resources to plan your own volunteering abroad experience.
Voluntourism may have harmful implications however, please check the organization and your intended impact thoroughly.
If you have your own advice or experience – please leave a comment and let’s build a nice little resource list here for others.
- Why International Volunteering is a Glorious Way to Travel: A love letter to international volunteering, travel blogger @WorldLillie shares her volunteering abroad experience. This soulful teacher had spent three months volunteering in Ghana and had a heart opening time. This article is sweet and she also has a whole list of articles on volunteering abroad.
- How to Choose an International Volunteer program This site is an overall exceptional resource for Big Trips AND this article is a solid explanation of what questions to ask yourself when picking a program.
- 37 Ways to Volunteer While Traveling A very comprehensive list by @spunkygirllogue on all the ways one can volunteer. Read it and picture yourself volunteering at a refugee camp or helping those little sea turtles make it to the sea. I recommend reading this list in conjunction with the book Volunteer Vacations to find out more details on how to make these ways happen.
- Advice for Travelers Who Want to Volunteer. An interview of Ken Budd, the author of “The Voluntourist” on NYTimes.com
- New: Voluntourism Dos and Don’ts by Conde Nast Traveler. Handy list of things to keep in mind when picking an organization.
- What an NGO Wants in a Volunteer – Insightful and incredibly helpful from the POV of the volunteer organization.
- Volunteer Abroad: A searchable index of international volunteer programs with an easy to use interface and comprehensive descriptions. I searched for “women” and “Guatemala” and got 27 results. These many well-laid out opportunities meant that I filed this site and the resulting programs under, “Next Big Trip.”
- Idealist.org: Want to help women in India? Itching to rehab lions in Kenya? Desire to teach arts and crafts in Morocco? Search Idealist.org for country and cause specific organizations looking for volunteers. Assignments range from one week to one years.
- Transitions Abroad: I haven’t used this site, but it definitely answered my questions of “where can I find volunteer organizations.” The “Featured Programs” section provides a varied view of different programs around the world to help you answer those questions asked in “choosing a volunteer program” article.
- Verge Magazine: Profiles, stories, and recommendations – this site has everything for the would-be volunteer.
- 10 Volunteering Working Holidays: This list by Guardian UK covers the globe and range of causes.
- The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook by @alittleadrift. A physical book that covers all the basics on international volunteering, including a chapter on the ethics of volunteering.
- Volunteering In Thailand: @GoGirlGuides is coming out with a Thailand guide in the fall, but why wait? This article shares of a list of Thai volunteer organizations and shares why volunteering can be so rewarding.
- Volunteering in Jordan and Nepal: Corporate runaway @ottsworld shares her experience volunteering for conservation corps in Jordan and teaching children in Nepal. Her articles are fun, inspiring, and informative about the actual “volunteering” part of volunteering abroad.
- Volunteering in India: In an effort to open my heart on my first trip to India, I volunteered at Mother Theresa Mission Charities and taught street kids in Jaipur with the Shakehands organization. Both were rewarding and fulfilling experiences that met the a) open heart goal and b) get a little closer to the heart and soul of India.
- Volunteering in Ecuador: Kim from @RTWsomanyplaces writes about her experience volunteering in Ecuador and shares her feelings about starting out.
- Do Good as You Go: Muskoka Foundation: An organization that queries the needs of the local group and matches volunteers with specific skills to what’s most needed. Read my profile here.
- Living the Life of a Wildlife Volunteer in Africa Volunteering with wild animals in South Africa.
Helping or Harming?
- Before you Pay to Volunteer Abroad, Think of the Harm You Might Do: This excellent Guardian article raises interesting ethical questions International Volunteer programs. My recommendation is to consider these issues when reviewing different international programs.
- Mixing Luxury Vacations with Voluntourism Can Do More Harm Than Good: A thoughtful article on how many organizations are profit- vs. mission-driven to take advantage of this tourism trend.
- Is Voluntourism the New Colonialism? Article examining the question, “how much help can you, Western visitor, really give?”
- Can Voluntourism really make a difference? Several articles in the NYTimes opinion section offering varying points of view.
If you have your own advice or experience – please leave a comment and let’s build a nice little resource list here for others seeking heart opening experiences abroad.
My recommendation is to thoroughly check out the organization by asking for references and other travelers. I’ve had several people contact me over Facebook or through my blog asking about my volunteer experiences – one of which I found through idealist.org. Do your homework and make sure the organization or experience is a fit for you and you are a fit for the organization.
“A person’s world is only as big as their heart”
-Tanya A. Moore