Posted by: Lauren Seidl
You want to travel the world and give back, so why not do both at once? This is what’s appealing about volunteering abroad, but many people overlook the fact that some trips can lead to more harm than good. If done the wrong way, volunteering overseas could take job opportunities from locals and build dependency.
Volunteering abroad isn’t bad, but it’s important to see the reality of what’s happening before whimsically running off to help with the next natural disaster. So how can you volunteer the right way? Check out these tips:
Volunteer with long-term projects
You have two weeks to build a new school in Mexico. Go. Obviously, this is impossible. It’s hard to get anything substantial accomplished within a few weeks, so if you’re longing to volunteer, stay for a longer period of time. How long should you stay? Any volunteer trip that lasts more than four weeks is considered long-term. If you don’t have that kind of time, make sure the project you help with is ongoing. A few weeks of volunteering is fine as long as others can pick up where you left off.
Put your skills to use
Thinking of volunteering in Thailand? First check to see what types of volunteer opportunities are available in the country. If you have any type of specialized training that could be useful to helping others, put it to use. For example, if you’re a doctor or an environmentalist your time might be better spent somewhere other than a construction site. Look for volunteer opportunities that match your abilities.
Choose the right company
Finding a company that’s helping the right way can be the trickiest part about voluntouring. Before choosing a program, make sure your money is actually going toward helping a community in need. You should also research to see if what you’re doing needs to be done or if it’s only being done because it appeals to volunteers. Directory-based companies such as GoAbroad.com can help with your search by verifying which programs are legitimate.
While volunteering abroad is appealing, don’t forget that catching a red-eye flight isn’t necessary for giving back. Some of the best volunteering opportunities are right in your backyard. If you want more adventure, look into volunteering in different regions of your own country. This way you can tour and volunteer while giving back to the nation you call home.
**Lauren Seidl is a recent graduate and an aspiring adventurer who hopes to
see more of what the world has to offer in the near future. For now this Wisconsin native is living in Colorado and exploring the Rocky Mountains while blogging for GoAbroad.com. Look for more travel-related posts by Lauren