The range of volunteering opportunities available is incredible – it’s possible to do anything from spending a week conserving a coral reef to a year helping out in a third world hospital! Whatever your skills and interests, there will be an area where you can use them to help others. This issue, Working Abroad Magazine is focusing on volunteering opportunities with children – an exciting and varied area of work that could take you all over the globe!
There are many fulfilling jobs you can do with children, particularly those who have been orphaned or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The most obvious role is teaching, and numerous charities and not-for-profit organisations provide schemes that allow you to teach English in another country, with or without a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification.
The first things you need to take into consideration are where in the world you would like to go, and how much time you have to spare. Most placements are in Africa, Asia or South America, and it is unusual to find one that lasts less than a month. On the whole, organisations prefer their volunteers to stay for longer time periods as it is less confusing for the children. Additionally, over the course of a few weeks you will begin to build relationships with the young people you meet every day, and a longer placement allows greater links to be formed. If you only spend a week with a group then disappear out of their lives, they are less likely to respond well to future volunteers, and you will lose out on the chance to see them change and develop during your time with them.
As is the case with most voluntary placements, you will probably need to pay an initial fee to work with children abroad. This fee can range from a couple of hundred pounds to more than fifteen hundred, and as a general rule the longer the project and less developed the country, the pricier it will be. It is usual practice for meals and accommodation to be provided in return for the cost of each programme, but this is not always the case. Some organisations only provide meals on certain days, or leave you to arrange your own place to stay, in order to keep the fee as low as possible.
It’s rare that you will be left without any in-country support, but be aware that in more isolated areas you may need to use a certain amount of initiative, as you may be the only volunteer out there.
Additionally, flights, insurance and visas are rarely included, and it’s important to budget for these when deciding when and where to go. Last minute flights are not cheaper for long-haul destinations, and the earlier you can book the less you will have to fork out just to get there. Visas sometimes need six months or more to process, so it is necessary to allow enough time to sort out all the details.
Vaccinations might be required if you are going to developing countries, and if you are going to be doing something unorthodox or risky, standard holiday insurance may not provide sufficient cover, so check what’s included before you take out a policy. Volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to explore a new country, so don’t forget to take spending money as well.
So now you know the very basics of how to prepare for voluntary work, what children-specific placements could you go for?
“It is hard to think of a more challenging, satisfying and rewarding project than volunteering at an orphanage.”
The ever-popular option is teaching, and if this is what you want to do there are plenty of organisations out there. It’s possible to find paid employment teaching in countries like Japan, but this type of teaching is often for adults or with sophisticated, professional schools for paying students. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you want to help children it is a far more worthwhile experience to teach in a rural school where the kids don’t have any other opportunity to learn.
If you fancy a taste of the exotic whilst you’re away, Personal Overseas Development (POD) has a very tempting placement – teaching on a tropical island! A minimum two month placement teaching on the island of Koh Phangan off the coast of Thailand costs between £795 and £1350 (depending on which option you go for) and promises to be an amazing experience, as you are trained in Bangkok before arriving at your school and given full support during your placement – and you live in a bungalow on the beach! For more information visit www.thepodsite.co.uk/projects-destinations/teach-on-a-tropical-island.html.
But don’t be restricted to just teaching English! Projects Abroad offers placements that have the option of teaching drama, sports, music and mathematics as well, allowing you to develop your teaching skills alongside your own interests. They offer placements in 23 countries, but to take Jamaica as an example, a one-month teaching placement costs £1195, two months £1445 and three months £1645. You would be placed in the university town of Mandeville supporting the teacher as a classroom assistant until you feel confident enough to take on more responsibility, and you are encouraged to include your own interests in your lessons. The fees include all accommodation, food and insurance, but not flights – www.projects-abroad.co.uk/ has all the details.
One of the more unusual projects is the Football Volunteer in Ghana run by Real Gap. You can choose between a structured role in a village environment with their Volta region project, or enjoy the hustle and bustle of Accra, Ghana’s capital, on their street football programme. For four weeks you can expect to pay £799, or £1299 for eight weeks. In exchange you will have all meals and accommodation included, pick-up from the airport and in-country support. As usual, flights, visas and insurance are extra – full details can be found at http://www.realgap.co.uk/.
Perhaps you prefer the idea of caring for children rather than teaching them? Inspired Breaks (formerly, Gap Year For Grown Ups) has a brilliant Himachal project in India, which is designed to get volunteers working in pre-school day care centres to ensure the children are healthy and cared for. The difference with this four week project is the excursions included in the £999 fee (£1549 for eight weeks) – trips to the Taj Mahal and massage workshops are just two of the activities on offer! To read about the experiences of previous volunteers on this project, go to the website.
Orphaned children often need more support than it is possible for local communities to provide, and the role of volunteers is a crucial one. Orphanages all over the world welcome volunteers, but a recommended programme is Real Gap’s Ukraine Orphanage Project, which offers the chance to improve the lives of children who otherwise would be forced onto the streets to survive. It’s a short project (two weeks for £399 or four for £699) so would be ideal for anyone with limited time or who doesn’t want to travel too far. You choose from three different orphanages around the capital city Kiev, and stay with a host family that includes at least one English-speaking member. Your daily activities will include teaching, organising extra-curricular activities and entertaining the children, and during the summer you have the chance to care for disabled students whilst the children go to summer camps.
The website has the full details of their programmes and how to apply.
If you have command of a second (or even third) language you will find even more opportunities are available. The ability to communicate with children in their own language can help immensely, and you are more likely to be trusted with more responsible positions. One example of this is the Community Work Placement offered by i-to-i in Trujillo, Peru. If you have intermediate level Spanish, you can help the Beneficencia Publica de Trujillo and the Centro Educativo Carlos A. Mannucci – two local projects that respectively help abandoned children and children and adults with disabilities. Your daily tasks would range from organising English workshops, to teaching arts and crafts or just playing football and entertaining the youngsters. This particular project lasts for 4 weeks, and costs £1195.
Another option could be working in a children’s burn unit, such as the Mosoj Ph’unchay centre in Cochabamba, Bolivia. You’ll need an understanding of Spanish and preferably a TEFL or teaching experience, and the minimum length of time you can volunteer for is a month, which will cost £490 (which covers a full board stay with a host family, airport transfers and a mentor) whereas three months costs £790. For more info contact Voluntary Projects Overseas or visit the website.
Something completely different is available through Travellers Worldwide, who have put together a placement that aims to conserve the traditional Zulu legends in a local community in South Africa. Rather than simply teaching English, volunteers will also encourage the children to discuss their heritage and tribal roots, and will learn about Zulu culture and traditional dances from a supervisor. Located in eMakhosini in KwaZulu-Natal Province, you will have the unrivalled opportunity to learn about a culture as far from the traditional British upbringing as it is possible to get! A month’s placement will set you back £1195, but you will only need pocket money once you arrive, as airport pickup, all food and accommodation is included. www.travellersworldwide.co.za/ is the place to go to find out more.
Those wanting more of a challenge and the chance to take a hands-on approach to their project may be interested in the Kenya Street Children Programme run by Action for Children in Conflict. They are looking for volunteers with all kinds of experience and knowledge, from lawyers and accountants to fundraisers and social workers. They do not include accommodation or living expenses in their project cost of £500 for three months, so it would not be a budget option, but it is an opportunity to really take control of your services to the community. Due to the individuality of each volunteer’s experience it is impossible to describe a typical day, so check out the project briefing at www.actionchildren.org/how-you-can-help/volunteer/kenya-street-children-programme.php and contact them directly to discuss your options.
Of course, if you want to pursue a career in this type of work, there are professional opportunities too. Save the Children have many different jobs abroad in 52 different countries: Chad, Bangladesh, Niger and Korea are just a few examples. These permanent positions are salaried and more appropriate for experienced applicants, so getting some voluntary work under your belt is one of the best ways to qualify for such jobs in the future. They do not offer voluntary placements abroad, preferring to recruit locally at that level, but volunteering in the UK is a viable option. Visit www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/jobs.htm for more detailed information.
INTERVIEW – Ghana Orphanage Jobs =>