I love discovering new countries, especially those in far-flung places. Before I jetted off to south-east Asia, I was told not to give money to children who would run up to me in the streets, as otherwise I’d be surrounded by a crowd and never escape. This made me feel guilty, especially as I obviously had some money because I could afford to go away.
I started to wonder if there were other ways I could help. While I don’t have a vocation myself, volunteer work proved to be the answer. While I can help with things such as building schools, wells and looking after little ones, those of you qualified in a particular field are also very much in demand.
So, what types of volunteer work can you do?
If you’re currently completing a medical course or are already working in the field, an underprivileged country needs you! While you’ll obviously be doing good at home, think of just how much your work will be appreciated in a place where the people have nothing.
Don’t worry – you won’t spend all of your time working, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do all the usual tourist things. After spending the week in a Kenyan orphanage caring for children whose parents have HIV or Aids, you’ll appreciate going on a stunning safari even more.
Namibia and Malawi are also African countries where your time and effort will go a long way. After the medical equipment and facilities you’re used to back home, you won’t believe how little people have here. Most travellers find making a difference when volunteering tends to be the highlight of their trip, rather than the amazing sights they see.
When you were younger, you probably dreaded having to get up to go to school and complained all the way there in the car. However, a large proportion of the world’s children cannot afford to go to school, and many of those who do walk for miles a day to get there. When teaching abroad, the lessons you dish out will really be appreciated and youngsters will certainly be willing to learn.
Teaching English is a skill that will be welcomed in lots of countries, from those in south-east Asia to South America. For something that little bit different, teach at a floating school in Cambodia near the renowned tourist attraction Angkor Wat. This means you can easily explore the site after lessons have ended and you have stepped off (!) the school.
This is the great thing about volunteer work abroad. Your schedules will give you plenty of free time to go sightseeing and relax with new friends in the evenings.
Yes, even a love for sports can go a long way when volunteering abroad. How? Well, sports coaching provides youngsters with a variety of benefits. These include a self-esteem boost, learning how to work as a team, the chance to forget home troubles and have fun, and simply enjoying being a child.
In South Africa, for example, you can help run sport activities at a school. Many educational establishments cannot afford to hire a full-time sports teacher and resources tend to be stretched and limited.
By teaching youngsters, you’ll be providing a massive boost to their school and putting your passion for sports to good use.
If you’ve ever volunteered abroad in one of these fields, how did you find the experience? Did you specialise in any areas not mentioned above