Argentina, South Africa and Australia are truly great places to find work abroad – they offer cultural diversity and tons of work and volunteer abroad opportunities. But you might be the kind of person who is looking to do something a little different. If you are looking to volunteer somewhere that is slightly less popular – and probably not-so-full of trekkers and expats – consider some of these alternative places to work abroad.
The Marshall Islands (WorldTeach): Located in eastern Micronesia, The Marshall Islands are a tiny grouping of 5 islands and 29 coral atolls. Independent since 1979, and with a seat in the United Nations, The Marshall Islands recently instituted a requirement that all elementary school children learn English from grade 1, prompting the government to enlist the help of WorldTeach. WorldTeach sends volunteers to the islands to teach in public schools in both the urban centers and outer islands.
Why The Marshall Islands? While the capital city of Majuro is relatively urban and developed, the atolls or “outer islands” are remarkably untouched by modern society, and WorldTeach volunteers have the opportunity to truly teach in a region without phones and Internet and other everyday distractions. Without stores, money or other creature comforts, the Marshall Islands are a truly alternative option for volunteering abroad.
Seychelles (Island Conservation Society): Sporting the smallest population of any African state, the island nation Seychelles – and its 85,000 inhabitants – sits between Madagascar and Zanzibar. The French-speaking nation boasts miles of beaches, popular with local tourists looking for an island resort getaway. Unfortunately with tourists came some unwelcome predators, and volunteer projects on the island help conservation efforts. The Island Conservation Society hosts volunteers to monitor the sea turtle population, and work with local resorts to promote conservation efforts around the local coral reefs.
Why Seychelles? It doesn’t get more off the beaten path than a place that you can only get to by chartered plane or boat.
Bulgaria (One Heart): I would never have given Bulgaria much thought if I hadn’t met a group of returned peace corps volunteers who really fell in love with the country. Here in the States it’s not exactly a country that comes up often in everyday conversation, but isn’t that all the more reason to consider volunteering there? At the very least, at the end of your trip you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge of Bulgarian! Information about volunteering in Bulgaria is somewhat scarce, but Volunteers for Peace and CAIDP both offer placements there. But if you are interested in something more local, there are many orphanages in need of volunteers. One Heart Bulgaria operates a network of orphanages and accepts “interns” (volunteers) year round to live and work with the children living in the orphanage.
Why Bulgaria? In addition to the allure of the beaches of the Black Sea Coast, there are lush forests and mountains dotting the country. Resorts have been popping up to entice tourists to the country for the past ten years, but most of the visitors come from the neighboring Romania, Serbia and Turkey. For volunteer travelers on a budget, it’s hard to beat the inexpensive food, drink and lodging – even as prices begin to rise since they joined the EU.
Georgia (Footprints Recruiting): Georgia is about as east as you can get in Eastern Europe. And there is an incredibly high demand for English teachers (specifically with TEFL certification) as the Caucasus nation looks to the West for as it grows. With influences from Russia, Turkey, East Asia and even Africa, Georgia is a country at a crossroads of old and new, beaches and mountains, east and west. Teachers work in elementary schools, teaching children English and prepare them to enter the global workforce.
Georgia is one of those very rare places that has emerged from a tumultuous history with a truly eclectic – and strong – culture. Between the Black Sea beaches, historic churches – not to mention the local food and wine – Georgia is a culture of hospitality above all else. However, the recent conflicts with Russia are not to be ignored, and your safety is paramount. Before considering a teach abroad job in Georgia, check out the current travel advisories for the country for the most up-to-date information. While the country has settled significantly in the past few years, at the time of this posting there is still some risk traveling near the Russia/Georgia border.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with volunteering in a popular location – most of them became popular for very good reason! But there are definitely some very worthy causes that may get a little less attention because they are located on remote islands, or in countries that have been historically misunderstood. So while you are considering your volunteer abroad job, consider both the obvious and less than obvious options, and find out what works best for you.