Looking for a way to combine a unique vacation, immerse yourself in a foreign culture, and help the local community? Volunteer trips, whether in your home or in a foreign country, are a great way to give back to a community, learn about issues the local residents are facing, and get involved with the local community’s projects. While you could volunteer in Florida or in your home state, an international trip will give you an insight into issues and cultures that you might not have known about otherwise. If you’re deciding how to help or what to do, check out the best volunteer abroad trips.
Volunteer with Elephants in Southeast Asia
In many Southeast Asian countries, elephants are put to work in terrible conditions to provide rides and entertainment for locals and tourists. Not to mention, elephants are already considered an endangered species. The elephants are kept in unsafe and cruel conditions and they are not properly cared for. However, you can be part of the change for these beautiful animals. Many groups work to reintegrate the elephants into their natural habitats. As a volunteer, you get to work closely with elephants, care for them, and learn about their behavior and biology, as well as the relationship between elephants and the local communities.
English Teaching in South America
Think back to those days in high school Spanish and you’ll remember how tough learning a foreign language can be. Often, the teachers are not native speakers, and at times they may only have a minimal understanding of the language, making things like pronunciation and grammar more difficult. That’s where you come in! Many programs across the world, like remote regions of South America, are always on the lookout for young, committed native speakers and teachers (some groups want a teaching certification, too) to help in their classrooms.
In many countries, English Teaching volunteers are recruited to work alongside the Ministry of Education. Teachers are placed in public high schools throughout the country to work alongside a local co-teacher for six to ten months teaching the students. Teachers are expected to read, write, and speak in English.
Rescue Sea Turtles in Bali
Head to Indonesia’s beautiful paradise-like island of Bali. In the bright blue waters are sea turtle populations that are getting hurt and even poached in their own homes on a daily basis. But some local organizations are working to help these animals. Check out the program with Goeco.org to volunteer at Ngurah Rai, Bali to save the sea turtles. This program allows you to immerse yourself in the local community, learn about Balinese culture, and help with hands-on projects in the recovery of rescued sea turtles, including feeding, helping with health needs, cleaning tanks, cleaning and collecting corals, and more.
The program with Goeco.org also involves various other community-based projects, such as construction on community projects, nurturing newly hatched baby sea turtles, and education classes to learn more about the sea turtle rescue projects and issues at play. The program runs from anywhere between two and twelve weeks for participants ages 18-50, with up to 30 volunteers at a time.
Wildlife Sanctuaries in South Africa
If you’ve thought about visiting South Africa, surely, you’ve already thought about going on a safari. From elephants to zebras to giraffes and lions, you can see them all in their natural habitats. But what about getting even closer than that? Get more out of your trip to South Africa by volunteering your time at a wildlife sanctuary. There are programs to take you to a small town outside of Johannesburg where you get to work on various projects to help animals. Sanctuaries exist to rescue animals that have been victims of natural disaster, have been orphaned, or have been rescued from other situations. They then work to rehabilitate the animals and ensure their survival. Some sanctuaries specifically care for animals that for whatever reason can never be released into the wild, while others plan to reintegrate the animals.
There are also partner sanctuaries in South Africa, where you can work with animals that cannot survive on their own in the wild. Working hands-on with the animals is entirely dependent on the qualifications and on the animals themselves, however, there are many other ways to help out! Some projects include putting up fire-breaks to stop the spread of fires that can damage habitats, help with the maintenance or construction of enclosures for the animals, clearing unwanted plant life, and general facility maintenance. If you do get to work with the animals, it can include anything from feeding to bathing to playing with them.
Women’s Empowerment in South Asia
Looking for a unique way to help the local community? Try a program to work with women and community development in South Asia. In countries like Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka, women are forming groups and fighting hard for equality: in the workplace, in family life, and in society in general. You can help out with these groups by teaching basic classes to groups of women to help with things like technology or English reading and writing, giving them more access, help with trainings and workshops on specific skills to empower them, lead workshops and motivate the groups, bond with the women, and work in health and hygiene areas. You can also support young girls in schools, by helping raise awareness about issues that will affect them, and empower them from a young age.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean
Learn about how to protect the seas, habitats, and the environment in a program like Goeco’s in Belize. The trip is set right alongside the deep blue sea in Belize’s pristine Caribbean coast and combines a dreamy beach vacation with some much-needed help in the community. The program is on a private island in Belize and involves days of curbing the invasive lionfish populations, wildlife photography, surveys of native species, data collection, habitat surveys, and helping cleaning and clearing the environment. The program runs from one to eight weeks for volunteers ages 18 and up. Only 17 volunteers are admitted at a time to volunteer here.