Many students decide to volunteer abroad during their studies or after graduation.
International volunteering offers:
- a great feeling of achievement
- an opportunity to make new friends
- a chance to experience other cultures
- a chance to travel
International volunteering is an exciting experience, but it also means hard work far from home, so it’s vital that you are passionate and enthusiastic about it. Read through our International Volunteering Handbook for more information.
Read about Andrew’s experience of volunteering in Peru
Otra Cosa Nework is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation which supports communities in Peru through life changing, affordable volunteering. The organisation is based in the coastal town of Huanchaco, and supports many projects around the northern areas of Peru. I volunteered with the organisation for a period of three months in 2014 as I looked to gain experience of educational leadership before my graduation from the MA Education programme at Edge Hill University.
The Otra Cosa Network connects volunteers from around the world with many different projects that focus on empowering disadvantaged Peruvian people. The organisation offers opportunities to work in a range of fields including community development, social enterprise, primary education; additional language education, special education, health and social care, and empowerment of women.
My work with Otra Cosa saw me take responsibility for the coordination of their English teaching projects, developing the provision offered by the organisation and managing the volunteers who were out teaching in schools and settings. Having worked as a teacher in England, I was delighted to get the opportunity to step up to a more senior role and be trusted to put my experience and expertise in education to good use.
Volunteers who come to Peru find themselves in a truly beautiful country with a captivating history and some of the most incredible sights the world has to offer. Nowadays, Peru is politically stable, with an emerging economy and a huge potential for positive development and growth. Growing disparities between the rich and poor provide an arena for social development and support, and this is where organisations like Otra Cosa aim to support underprivileged communities with the help of volunteers.
If international volunteering is something that students or graduates are considering, then I recommend Peru and South America as a destination, because it truly is a fascinating place. Of course, the Otra Cosa Network is just one organisation in an entire continent, but a visit to www.otracosa.org will provide an abundance of information about the work of the organisation, and might just convince you to pack your bags for Peru.
Read about Ramzi’s experience of volunteering in El Salvador
I did a three month international volunteering placement with ICS Progressio in El Salvador. Initially, I set out to do it for personal reasons: to improve my use of Spanish, to experience living in a different country and improve my cultural-awareness and to meet like-minded people while making a positive contribution to society. However, as I became aware of Progressio motives and the role they play in helping people to gain power over their own lives and overcome the barriers that keep poor, my motivations for wanting to volunteer subsequently changed. I took an interest in international development and departed for my volunteering placement with a genuine belief in “people-powered development!”
Our team was sent to Nuevo Gualcho, a rural community in El Salvador. We worked side by side with national volunteers in order to establish an eco-tourist route that would generate a sustainable income for the community once it had opened to tourists. Our main was to clean the Hacienda, a heritage building dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors of The Americas, and to build steps to the Posa, a natural pool with its own waterfall, in order to make it more accessible to tourists. On top of this, we also held school talks on the importance of recycling and the consequences of littering in order to make the children more environmentally aware. Previous cycles of volunteers in Nuevo Gualcho had built a centro de artesania (artisan centre) and a centro de acopio (recycling centre). The overall idea, therefore, was to not only establish a tourism route, but to encourage the community to be more environmentally friendly and recycle the “rubbish” in order to make tourist souvenirs. Like hitting two birds with one stone!
I found out about ICS Progressio through a Google search, but have since introduced it to friends and family. I think more should be done to advertise opportunities like this because they are government funded, which means you don’t have to pay a penny! There is a requirement to fundrais £800, but that is more to do with raising awareness about Progressio’s work to your friends, family and local community.
The experience involved a lot planning and organization, but most of that is done by senior Progressio staff. Everything is arranged for you, from the flights, to the accommodation and meals. Even the travel expense for the selection day in London is reimbursed, and overnight accommodation can be booked for you on their behalf if you’re travelling a long distance to get there!
As far as the projects are concerned, each one is different. You can either go to Central America or Africa and what you do depends on the needs of the community. You could be working to help improve awareness about HIV, or equality or you could do something similar to what I did.
As well as everyone working towards main project, you are expected to have an individual role within the group. Each team has roles for media (writing blogs), visual media, team leader, community liaison, and language. Usually it’s two or three people to every role depending on the size of the group. The good thing about Progressio is that they take into consideration your skills and abilities and deploy you according to your strengths. If you speak Spanish, for example, there is a strong chance you could be sent to Central America to take up the language role.
This experience has provided me with transferable skills which can be useful in any career. For example, it has improved my problem solving skills, my teamwork and interpersonal skills, work-ethic and motivation, reliability, adaptability, initiative, stress tolerance, and judgment and decision.
On a more personal note, I’m a teacher trainee in modern foreign languages so during the placement I obviously chose the language role. This enabled me to improve my Spanish fluency and accuracy given that I had to translate all written documents and interpret during team meetings. It also improved my teaching ability because I had to the opportunity to teach English to the national volunteers and Spanish to the UK volunteers every week!
I’ve gained great friends, unforgettable and life changing experiences, and an deeper understanding on the tremendous work that NGOs like Progressio do in order to promote sustainable people powered development.
The only piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of volunteering with ICS Progression is do it and you won’t regret it!
If you do apply for Progressio, please mention me as the person who recommended it to you! That would be great, thanks.
Ramzi bin Abdullah
Read about Jennifer’s experience of volunteering in Ukraine
“So I’m officially a local celeb in the town of Ichnia; not for having a special talent, just for being different and offering to share my cultural experiences with the children involved in GoCamp. GoCamp is an amazing volunteering program which aims to help children in Ukraine gain confidence and fluency in English (and other popular languages), which gives the kids a better chance of employment after school and open doors of opportunities they never thought possible.
I previously took for granted that being an English speaker allows me to travel almost anywhere in the world and get by, because it’s now becoming a global language; I can probably get a job in any country I wish too, but these talented and creative kids do not yet have that freedom.
It’s not just the children that gain from this project, Volunteers at GoCamp get a fun packed 3 days training course at Camp which is an energetic, vibrant experience and gives volunteers a chance to gain transferable skills and confidence. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to connect with intelligent and beautiful souls from all around the globe a chance to give up your time to serve others and immerse yourselves in the beautiful cultures and traditions that Ukraine has to offer!
The people of Ukraine are warm, welcoming and helpful, and it’s been a pleasure for me from start to finish. I can only thank GoCamp Ukraine and hope to inspire more volunteers to take part in this superb project and break stereotypes about Ukraine
Read about Ruby’s experience of volunteering in Tanzania
During my summer (2018) I decided to volunteer for an organization called Forever Angels Baby Home, the home is based in Mwanza, Tanzania and is the most amazing place for orphaned children or for children whose parents/ guardians can’t care for them any longer. My time there was tough and many children came from backgrounds which have had major effects on their physical and mental states. My role as volunteer wasn’t to just care and look after the children at Forever Angels but to love them and to enhance their abilities not only to learn, but to enjoy themselves. It gave me massive pleasure to see the hard work that the staff and volunteers at Forever Angels put into each child and how happy the children are during their time at the baby home.
Volunteers have free range to organise activities and plan trips for the children. The experiences that the volunteers give would not be possible without financial help so volunteers are a massive help to the organisation. Activities that we planned for the children include taking them to the water park, sports day, swimming lessons and much more. For the older children at forever angels there is a preschool set up in which Monday to Friday they have morning lessons. The staff at Forever Angels run the preschool and enhance the children’s knowledge to prepare them for later life, the preschool is a great way for volunteers such as myself to get involved with to show the Preschool staff new and exciting ways to teach the children. During my time, there we taught the topic of food and focused on new and exciting activities to excite the children and stimulate their learning.
Forever angels baby home also does an incredible job in the community in their Maisha Matters programme. They focus on not only supporting the children in the baby home but supporting family’s so that they can look after and care for the children at home. Twenty women die every day during childbirth in Tanzania, leaving twenty babies without a source of nutrition. Formula milk in Tanzania is extremely expensive for families to purchase. Forever angels use donations to purchase milk for these families which is just one amazing way Forever Angels help the community. They also help to educate parents and guardians for example teaching them about the nutritional diets, how to be healthy during pregnancy, and how to look after and support young children.
Forever angels change the lives of families and helps support the community in many different ways, further helping children be reunited with their families. 50% of children at Forever angels baby home return back to their families which wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the hard work of the organization and the most incredible women Amy Hathaway who started up the Baby home. I would highly recommend this experience to all students as it is truly life changing for yourself and the people your supporting.