I know it may sound a bit cliched but overseas volunteer work is a great way to travel by giving a little bit back and a great eyeopener.
There are many different types of volunteer work all over the world being offered by so many different organisations meaning that it can be hard to choose which one is right for you. A good place to start is deciding where you would like to go and start from there. Or vice versa. You may know exactly what you want to do and all you need to decide is where you would like to do it.
You can find many opportunities by doing a simple google search, but remember you can also find plenty of volunteer work on site without having to go through a big organisation, especially in countries where money is scare and workers are desperately needed.
I have done volunteer work in two countries; Costa Rica and Argentina. My trip to Costa Rica was completely organised through the organisation ISV, for which I coughed up quite a bit of money although I have to admit it was an absolutely amazing experience. My work in Argentina on the other hand was something I decided to do while I was already there on a year’s university exchange. Through the student services of my host university I organized to help out at a daycare center in a poor part Buenos Aires close to a slum for free. All I had to pay for was the bus ride there and then home again. While looking after about 30 or so poor, grubby little kids in one small room was rather challenging, it was definitely eye opening and it was a great feeling to be able to lend a helping hand and keep the place running so that these little kids still had a place to come to and were guaranteed a meal at least once a day. In a way I got hooked to volunteering and already had my sights set on Casa do Caminho in Brazil before I got delayed in Mexico.
I highly recommend volunteering whether it be for one day, one week or one month. You may not feel like you’re doing much but many a time just your participation in a programme can provide someone with a job that they might not otherwise have. You can easily find volunteer work by searching online, asking other travellers or checking out sites like idealist.org which have listings of opportunities all over the world.
Volunteering is really more than just a cliche for wanna-be travellers wanting to save the world. It is a great way to travel, a great way to see the world, meet new people from another culture and a great way to help out, even if it’s just a little bit, it’s better than nothing.
Here is an interesting article on Villa 21, the slum or villa miseria near the daycare center where I worked in Buenos Aires, just in case you’re interested.