Tips on Volunteering Abroad
Do you love to travel and have a passion to learn first-hand about a new culture? You can expand your professional skills while making a positive contribution. There are hundreds of organizations all over the world which welcome volunteers. Many groups are looking for assistance with programs focusing on social and development issues. There is something for everyone! The following tips will help you make an informed decision about which organization or type of experience will best suit your needs.
- Decide where in the world you would like to volunteer and the type of service or program that would appeal to your own development. Organizations may offer volunteer opportunities ranging from a few weeks to two years. Decide how long you plan to be away and if you plan on further travel beyond the volunteer experience. Build all this into your schedule and budget.
- Consider whether or not you wish to work in a small group or individually and whether you wish to be placed in a rural or urban setting.
- Research organizations carefully and try to contact previous alumni of these programs for first-hand knowledge. Don’t be afraid to contact the organizations directly as well and ask them questions about staffing, program directions, supervision and expectations. Some organizations will require you to pay a fee. This fee assists with operational costs, food and room and board. Remember that many of these groups are not-for-profit or non-government organizations.
- Investigate the appropriate visas, letters of permission, petitions, passports and vaccinations required. Develop some basic language skills and cultural awareness (e.g. appropriate dress, gender roles, etc.).
- Recognize that in order to be accepted as a volunteer you must have more than a need or want to help. You must have language skills, leadership or training experience, be flexible and adaptable. Do not expect the experience to be like home.
- Be sure to get a document in writing outlining the organizations expectations, your role, time of commitment, fees, benefits, insurance, vaccination information and refund policies.
Important Questions to Answer
- How will I learn about the reputation of the organization?
- What is the mandate of the organization?
- What type of experience do I want? What are my goals and expectations?
- Do I understand the socio-political-economic climate and culture of the areas I want to go to?
- What will the financial costs be? Will I need to fundraise? How are the fees used?
- What supports do I have (financial and social)?
Laurier Alternative Reading Week
Laurier International offers an alternative reading week experience for students who are interested in volunteering abroad during reading week.
International Volunteering Resources
Here is a list of websites that will get you started with your research. The list is by no means exhaustive. Remember to research organizations thoroughly.
- AIESEC Laurier.
- Campus Access: Database of volunteer and internship opportunities in a variety of sectors.
- Canada World Youth (CWY): Offers international educational programs to youth ages 17-24.
- Canadian Centre for International Studies and Cooperation: Volunteer or work in Canada or abroad to combat poverty and exclusion.
- Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO): CESO’s primary service areas are strategic planning, business development, accounting and finance, organizational development, community development, governance and production and operations.
- Canadian Crossroads International: Organization that coordinates volunteer exchange programs between Canada and over 20 countries.
- CARE Canada: CARE Corps Abroad programs to support women fighting poverty.
- CUSO International: Organization focusing on global social justice with two-year volunteer placements.
- EQWIP HUBs: CWY and YCI have come together to leverage their respective expertise, networks and efforts to launch EQWIP HUBs, an innovative approach to power sustainable youth livelihoods.
- Global Affairs (Government of Canada): Learn more about Global Affairs Canada’s career streams in Canada and abroad.
- International Youth Internship Program (Government of Canada): View the list of available internships that Global Affairs has funded.
- Right to Play International: Non-government organization committed to working with children through sport development.
- World Health Organization: United Nations specialized agency for health.
- World University Service of Canada: Volunteer in Canada or abroad to help improve access to education and training vulnerable communities.
- Youth Challenge International: Driven by youth and their potential to affect positive change in the world.
Global Volunteer Experience – At Home!
- Join globally inspired clubs (for example: Free the Children, Global Youth Volunteer Network, Spanish Club, and more).
- Search for opportunities using the Volunteer Action Centre (teach English, help refugees, etc.).
- Get involved with Laurier International’s clubs or International Peer Mentors program.