Volunteering overseas often conjures up images of traipsing through jungles to remote island villages and hammering tooth and nail to help build schools. While those are both definitely options on a volunteering holiday, you may not have realised you could also teach disadvantaged kids how to surf or hand-rear baby lion cubs in South Africa or help out with panda conservation in China. Voluntourism projects range from building developments for disadvantaged communities, working with children and animals and so much more.
Volunteering overseas can involve a wide range of work; you could find yourself helping to support the health of communities in Peru to working on conservation projects in Costa Rica and joining community projects in India, South Africa or Ecuador. What it’s really about is doing a little good in the world – ultimately though, you’ll get just as much back as you give, if not more, in the grand scheme of things.
Whether you want to work with kids, animals or help with building and conservation, there’s a variety of options all over the globe from helping with kids in Thailand and Vietnam to feeding elephants breakfast in Sri Lanka, looking after game animals in Kenya and Namibia or getting involved in sporting activities with disadvantaged kids in Malawi. There's also orangutan conservation in Malaysia or helping with whale shark conservation in Mozambique. Whatever your calling, we can help sort out packages, visas, travel, insurance and accommodation details so you can start making a difference, sooner.
You can volunteer from two weeks to a month or more, and there's no age limit on giving back. What’s different about travelling as volunteer as opposed to a regular tourist is you get to know the local people and you get an insider view. It’s a big deal you’ve come out of our way and are giving your time, and your gesture won’t go unnoticed. In most cases, when volunteering overseas, your meals and accommodation will be sorted and any additional expenses will be left up to you, so it’s a good idea to have some extra savings for further travel after your volunteering endeavours come to an end.
Top 3 tips for volunteering overseas
Look after yourself: Take malaria medication if it’s advised for the region you’re travelling to, and get all of the relevant vaccinations. Drink bottled water, carry antibacterial hand gel and wash your hands. Illness is usually prevented by taking a little extra care in terms of hygiene.
Learn some local language: A few words in the local lingo will get you a long way!
Keep your eyes and mind open: Consider the impact of the photos that you take and the messages you put across.
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Travel Confessions: Cynthia Tan on volunteering in Laos
How to travel mindfully
Before you go - checklist:
The travel stuff
- You'll need a visa appropriate for volunteering and travelling in your chosen destination;
- Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity;
- Travel insurance.
- Let AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) know you’re leaving the country so you don’t get wacked with fines for not voting if there’s a local or national election on the horizon;
- Make sure your drivers licence is valid for a while or apply for an international drivers licence;
- Make copies of your documentation (i.e., passport, visas, birth certificate, etc.);
- Photocopy all documents including insurance particulars, record the numbers of your credit cards, passport, and airline tickets and give to a responsible family member or friend at home;
- Bring additional passport photos to ease the process of replacing a lost or stolen passport, or if other official documents are required once you are in your destination country.
- Medical – do you have you have all the drug prescriptions you need, including your glasses/contact lens prescription (if you wear them)?
- Pack a spare pair of glasses and contact lenses (if you wear them);
- Have you had all the relevant shots/immunisations for the region you’re travelling to? And pack a list of the vaccinations you’ve had, just in case;
- Visit your dentist to have a clean and checkup before you jet.
- Tax – let the ATO know you’re leaving the country;
- Apply for any credit and debit cards for travel;
- Notify your bank and close any accounts that might charge you fees while you’re away;
- Money – take approximately $AU200 with you as universal currency;
- Pay off any debts you have with friends, family or financial intuitions;
- Cancel any automatic withdrawals you have from your bank account.
- Pack you camera, batteries and chargers;
- Pack an extra memory card for your camera;
- Buy an international power adaptor suitable for use in the region you are travelling to;
- Invest in a good backpack;
- Don't forget all your electronic chargers;
- Note all your insurance and emergency numbers in a safe place;
- Know the address of the closest Australian embassy in your destination, just in case.
The not-so obvious
- Pack foam earplugs (to block out noisy travel buddies or offer to others if you’re the noisy one!);
- Bring a good book or a novel based somewhere where you are headed - it adds an interesting perspective when you explore these destinations;
- If you have more than one credit card, separate them. Perhaps store one in your wallet and the other in your luggage. That way if you lose one or the other you’ll still have access to cash;
- Collect Australian souvenirs (those little clip-on koalas go down a treat) to give out to your students or kids you meet while volunteering;
- Purchase a few educational games or children’s word association games;
- Collect glossy catalogues and magazines with lots of pictures; these are hard to find in most developing countries and students love them!
- Find out what is considered to be proper attire in your classroom or volunteering location, including shoes, as well as weather-appropriate clothing for your destination.
Ecuador Street Children Care and Education, 15 Days
15 day volunteering project departing Quito. 14 nights accommodation, based on twin-shared rooms at a family run volunte more..
Community work with underprivileged children in Cusco, 29 Days
29 day volunteering project departing Cusco. 29 nights twin share accommodation in a homestay. Breakfast and dinner dail more..
Community work and turtle conservation in coastal Sri Lanka, 14 Nights
14 nights Dorm-share accommodation in the volunteer house. Breakfast & Dinner Daily. Airport pick-up (Colombo). Arrival more..
Elephant Conservation and Research in Sri Lanka, 14 Nights
14 nights dorm-share accommodation in the volunteer house. All your meals. Airport pick-up. Orientation on arrival, 2 da more..
Building with underprivileged communities in Nakuru, Kenya, 15 Days
15 day volunteering project departing Nakuru. 14 nights twin share accommodation in a homestay. Breakfast and dinner dai more..
Hands-on work with endangered birds and wildlife in South Africa, 29 Days
29 day volunteering project departing South Africa. 28 nights of dorm share accommodation. All meals. Arrival orientatio more..
Great White shark monitoring in South Africa, 14 Nights
14 nights of dorm-share accommodation. Breakfast daily and lunch when aboard the boat. Airport pickup. Arrival orientati more..
Community work with children in Ho Chi Minh City, 15 Days
15 day volunteering project departing Ho Chi Minh City. 14 nights of twin share hotel accommodation. Arrival orientation more..
Thailand Community & Elephant Volunteers, 14 Nights
14 nights of dorm-share accommodation (2 nights Bangkok, 6 nights at elephant village, 6 nights in Surin city). All mea more..
Marine Research and whale shark Conservation in Mozambique, 22 Days
22 day volunteering project departing Mozambique. 21 nights quad share accommodation in a volunteer house. All meals. Ar more..
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