Volunteering abroad as an expat is a fantastic way to integrate into the local community; meet new people, both locals, other expats and international volunteers; do something worthwhile; learn new skills; enhance your CV; contribute to your new place of residence; learn the local language; and so much more.
Volunteering overseas can give you the opportunity to try something completely new or to build on existing skills, qualifications and experience in an area you’re interested in and passionate about.
Volunteering abroad gives you the privileged chance to really make a difference to a community and to help improve the lives of others; making it a truly beneficial and valuable way to spend time in your host country and a life-enhancing experience.
For expats choosing to volunteer abroad there are a range of opportunities, with a variety of short and long term programmes to suit your interests, available time, budget and location.
How to Volunteer
What’s on offer locally?
First look at the volunteering opportunities on offer in your local vicinity and research all of the international volunteer organisations or local organisations that provide volunteering opportunities for expats in the area.
International Voluntary Organisations
There are a number of international voluntary organisations offering a range of volunteer programmes and projects for expats across the globe.
Location-Specific Voluntary Organisations
The type of volunteering on offer where you live will be impacted by the place you live. Marine conservation projects exist in the coastal settlements of Spain, for example, and many of these are operated by a location-specific community organisation.
The right type of Programme
Some organisations offer specific programmes, such as opportunities specifically tailored towards expats, or programmes for students; retirees; families; individuals; professionals and so on. Choose the right programme for your current situation.
What are your areas of interest?
Next think about what type of volunteering you’d like to get involved in. You may choose an area you already have experience in; or perhaps you will venture into a new area of interest. What you decide to do will largely depend on the volunteering opportunities in the local area, but you may find there’s a choice, such as work with animals; teaching; humanitarian work; ecology and environmental projects.
How much time and how long do you have to commit?
Volunteering can be based on a short or long term basis and the weekly hours will vary from project to project. Choose a programme that you can commit to with ease. As an expat living in the country it may well suit you to take on a long term project that last several years, or a series of short term projects.
Free or paid programme?
Can you contribute financially to the volunteering experience or are you seeking a programme which is free and won’t cost you to join and be a part of? There are plenty of programmes offering free volunteering opportunities and there are plenty that come at a cost. Some organisations offer tax-deductible programmes.
Choose the right programme for your circumstances; the programme you feel you can best contribute to; one which matches your passions and interests; and will offer you the most enrichment as an individual.
Special skills, experience, or qualities?
Do you need any particular experience, knowledge or skills set to volunteer in a particular programme? Some volunteer programmes will require you to be able to speak a particular language; or to have a skill in an area, such as marine biology, or a teaching qualification, or experience in construction, for example. Other projects, however, will merely require a desire to contribute and get involved. Some projects will be age-restrictive, for example. It’s important to research what is required of you as a volunteer before making an application to a particular organisation or project.
Investigate what type of work documents you may need, such as the right type of visa or work permit for a particular project.
Type of volunteering
Volunteer opportunities exist for expats in a broad range of areas such as archaeology; animal conservation; teaching; sports; marine conservation; building and construction; working with children; human rights; healthcare; and ecology, community work, to name a few. Discover the type of volunteering opportunities up and running in your local area because many of the types of projects available will be place specific.
An open mind and willingness to contribute
With an open mind, desire to help, and the spirit to get involved becoming, coupled with choosing the right volunteering programme for you, becoming an expat volunteer will reap huge personal benefits and is a massively rewarding way to spend your time while living abroad.