We live in a global society. As a result, many of us feel connected to communities around the world. It’s this connection that often leads to a desire to get involved overseas.
Volunteering overseas can help you discover a passion for social justice. It allows you to share and learn skills. And it can feed an interest in discovering new places and cultures.
Many international organizations, relief agencies and exchange programs offer volunteer assignments. These volunteer opportunities can range from one week to two years. They’re offered to groups and individuals. This kind of volunteering is sometimes called “voluntourism.”
These overseas volunteer experiences can change your world view. You’ll get to cross oceans and borders. You’ll see your role as a global citizen.
Some companies offer volunteer vacation programs. This means the company helps with travel expenses and gives extra time off for a voluntourism trip. Often, the business will donate to the overseas project.
Many high schools, colleges and universities offer international volunteer programs. Often, the volunteer trip takes place during the spring break or summer holiday.
Finding an international volunteer opportunity
Finding the right match is important for all volunteer experiences. But with the travel and cost of voluntourism, it’s important to research and plan your overseas volunteer trip carefully.
Organizing a trip can be complicated, but it’s a great way to learn about yourself and the world. You’ll be a part of building a stronger global community.
Important things to consider include:
- Travel arrangements
- Training and support
- Reputation of the organization
On the surface, international volunteering and “voluntourism” seems win-win. You support the local people. You learn a new culture and get to see the world. You and the community benefit. But the reality can sometimes be different. There are ethical issues to consider.
It’s best to do your research and learn about the ethical issues of voluntourism. For starters, check out this Lonely Planet guide to international voluntouring.
Volunteering at home for an international organization
You can also get involved internationally without leaving Canada. And the impact and experience can be just as great. Most international organizations have local volunteer programs. The biggest impact we can have is by learning about international issues. And we can make a difference by sharing these learnings with others.