Travel Volunteer Abroad Programs

Considering Volunteering Abroad as a Teen? Here’s What You Need to Know

Volunteers in the back of a truck in Sri Lanka.
Volunteers in the back of a truck in Sri Lanka.

An more and more fashionable ceremony of passage for teenagers at the moment, volunteering overseas is usually seen as means to prolong service studying to low-income communities overseas. Notably for People, younger individuals are taught that volunteering and repair studying is a high-quality expertise that’s essential for school purposes, job resumes and graduate faculty. All through highschool, most college students volunteer their time in some capability, whether or not of their residence group or overseas. And whereas that’s an admirable and sometimes true sentiment, it will be important that volunteers perceive the context, historical past and ethicalness of volunteer overseas tasks prior to signing up. 

Why are There so Many Volunteer Abroad Choices out There?

Volunteering overseas is a rising business. Though it’s onerous to measure, it’s estimated that roughly 1.6 million individuals volunteer overseas yearly, producing roughly $2 billion globally. And also you, Gen Zs, have a robust want to volunteer for each social justice causes and private progress.

As you scroll by means of all the web choices on the market, you’ll discover developments within the varieties and number of volunteer tasks out there. The preferred areas for volunteering overseas in 2018 have been Asia, and Africa and South America, whereas the preferred undertaking subjects have been:

  • Medical Volunteering
  • Volunteer Educating
  • Wildlife and Conservation
  • Orphanage Volunteering
  • Common Volunteer Abroad

With such giant numbers of individuals occupied with volunteering internationally, it ought to come as no shock that there was an explosion of suppliers in search of to revenue. Each well-intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned corporations are leaping in with the hopes of capitalizing on this journey development. Assessment web sites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas see the very best saturation within the volunteer overseas sector with tons of of organizations vying for coveted members.

A volunteer pets a dog on a beach in Thailand.

A volunteer cares for a canine at our pet rescue middle undertaking in Thailand.

Examine and Distinction Voluntourism and Volunteering

If you begin digging into worldwide volunteer packages, you’ll begin noticing a few types of youngster volunteer packages. There tends to be two construction varieties – voluntourism vs volunteerism – and there are key distinctions between the 2 that make them totally different experiences for the volunteer, but in addition for the group the place the venture is occurring.

Not all organizations that provide volunteer experiences are created equal. There are completely moral voluntourism packages and horribly unethical volunteerism packages. GoOverseas does a nice job of breaking down key variations of their weblog publish on the matter. We will’t make sweeping generalizations about all tasks as a result of there are constructive and unfavorable features (and real-life examples) of each kinds of packages.

Listed here are a few differentiators  between the 2 forms of these volunteer experiences:


  • Brief-term
  • No expertise required (might or will not be on-site coaching)
  • Group oriented
  • Sometimes a program payment
  • Operated by for-profit corporations
  • Emphasis in your expertise not influence


  • Variable size
  • Coaching/expertise required often with on-site orientation and coaching out there
  • Sometimes solo or small-group expertise
  • Might or will not be a program charge
  • Operated by non-profits
  • Emphasis on group influence and capability constructing as well as to your private progress

Word: It’s important to perceive there are key variations between each buildings, however neither are inherently good OR dangerous. They’re merely totally different.

Understanding the Context and Challenges of Volunteering

Volunteer packages don’t occur in a void – they occur inside a context – and it’s crucial that you simply start to unpack the context by which you’re hoping to volunteer as a part of your preparation course of. This can assist you higher perceive your work, your impression, and the group challenges and successes that exist earlier than and after your program. Even the volunteer with one of the best of intentions could be a disservice or disrespectful to the group if they don’t perceive the context by which they’re volunteering and the which means behind their work.

As well as to all of the latent challenges related to the worldwide context, there are additionally distinctive challenges created by the business itself.

Due to the speedy enlargement of the volunteer overseas business, there’s little regulation or oversight from authorities businesses, leaving regulation up to the businesses themselves. With none oversight, it’s troublesome to set guidelines about what is suitable and moral in a volunteer undertaking. This could lead to a battle of curiosity during which for-profit companies are wanting to earn money off of volunteers wanting to make a distinction.

There isn’t any scarcity of tales (right here, right here, right here) on the market about points with voluntourist organizations inflicting extra hurt than good or solely looking for to revenue off of vacationer dollars with out contemplating the native influence. One a part of the volunteer overseas business the place that is particularly prevalent is volunteering in orphanages. Contemplate the under summary from a 2010 publication from the Human Sciences Useful resource Council on orphanage tourism in South Africa:

“The dominant global perception that sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing an ‘AIDS orphan crisis’, coupled with growing trends in international voluntourism, has fostered a potentially high-risk situation for already vulnerable young children in the region. We describe an emerging ‘AIDS orphan tourism’, and show how short-term attachments formed between children in group residential care and volunteers may worsen known impacts of institutional care.”

Deservedly, horror tales such as these have led to public mistrust in volunteer overseas packages. Many individuals really feel skeptical and anxious about signing up for volunteer alternatives, and don’t essentially belief that they’re clear, moral or accountable.

There’s additionally an “opportunity cost” problem to think about. When a volunteer enters into a area, are they displacing native labor? Or are they filling a void that might not in any other case be achieved? That is an particularly necessary consideration for development based mostly infrastructure tasks like constructing houses or faculties.

Teenagers volunteer in Costa Rica serving to to construct an animal cage for rescued wild animals.

So, Why Ought to I Volunteer Abroad?

You could also be asking your self, “Well, why would I bother volunteering abroad?”

Volunteering overseas can have a profound influence on you – the volunteer – as properly as the group you present service to. Opening one’s eyes to the challenges confronted by communities overseas is a chance to change the course of 1’s life, or study a native challenge that you simply don’t face in your house group.

Volunteers also can make an impression on the group such as spreading consciousness of the difficulty, constructing new infrastructure, contribute to ongoing analysis, or perpetuate the day-to-day upkeep of a rescue middle.

“It was an incredibly humbling and magnificent volunteer opportunity. The lifestyle of Costa Ricans is one all the world should pick up! They work hard, but also know when to take a break. Working with the staff at the sanctuary was incredible. You can see the passion and love that they have for the animals and for their center. They were practically bubbling over the brim with positive energy – how could I not have a wonderful time?!?! ” – Costa Rica Volunteer alum, Varisa Lertburapa

The truth is individuals wouldn’t do volunteer overseas packages in the event that they didn’t really feel a compulsion to contribute to the larger good – and that’s an admirable trait we should always rejoice in ourselves. It’s a human intuition to need to assist others, and typically going to a overseas nation is a significant approach to achieve this.

Though there are volunteer packages on the market which might be utilizing the guise of humanitarian help to make a revenue for themselves, sensible volunteers can discover good, moral and significant volunteer overseas experiences. Sure, it might take a little extra analysis and an understanding of the context of the volunteer overseas business, however it’s potential. The duty falls on you to do your homework on any group when selecting a volunteer challenge. However, with our ideas for locating a legit volunteer challenge, hopefully we might help make the method a little smoother for you to pursue your passions whereas making a constructive influence on the world.


International improvement is a large subject of research, so we will solely scratch the service of the subject in a weblog submit. However, if that is one thing that pursuits you, right here is a nice record of books, assets and on-line articles all concerning the matter.

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