Volunteer abroad Skills and qualifications
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Volunteer abroad Skills and qualifications
Do I need any skills or qualifications to join the volunteer program?
People often worry that they do not have the necessary skills or qualifications in order to volunteer abroad. The fact is that the most important qualifications for a volunteer are passion and dedication so it is always possible to volunteer abroad with no specific skills or qualifications. If you want to help others and are willing to put in work, then there is a volunteer project for you.
There are certain types of projects which require/prioritise volunteers with specific skills, qualifications or experiences. In this article, we will have a look at the requirements for different types of volunteer abroad projects.
General work with children
Working with kids can be in an orphanage or other local organisation designed for children. This can involve teaching (usually English), homework help, cooking/distributing food, playing games and organising activities. Work in orphanages and work with children in general is usually open to anyone. Organisers for certain projects may be looking for people with specific skills or ask what skills you could contribute but as a general rule, everyone is welcome.
Teaching English is a common choice for volunteers where you will be teaching English in public or community/charity run schools. The teaching environment may be difficult and you will have limited access to resources. For this reason, some teaching experience is preferable however volunteers without experience will be accepted onto most courses. Bear in mind that training (unless you specifically apply to a TEFL program) will be brief or non-existent so this will be a challenging but rewarding experience.
Medical / Health Project
Most medical or health projects are aimed at students, graduates or professionals in various medical fields: nursing, midwifery, nutrition, physiotherapy, dentistry and speech therapy. Most projects in these areas are for those who have completed one year of study in their field or have adequate experience. However, if healthcare is something that interests you, it is possible to find placements assisting qualified professionals in areas such as nutrition and public health.
The volunteer experience was very eye-opening and I felt very much needed at the site. I would greatly recommend it.
The strong ties we built and the rewarding experiences that we made here were really very priceless.
A lifetime experience, which has opened my eyes to so much, and impassioned me to pursue future volunteer trips.
Overall a great experience! I can't think of any reason why I shouldn't recommend the program to others!
Community development projects tend to be extremely varied and as such require volunteers with varied skills. Volunteers may be organising activities, building, painting, gardening or even just spending time talking to locals, listening to their stories and learning about their cultures. Sometimes, community development projects do require volunteers with specific skills such as construction or plumbing but generally the main thing you need for a project like this is openness and enthusiasm.
Working on female empowerment projects can involve teaching English, counselling, teaching vocational skills and providing health care advice. Organisers on these projects often look to make use of the volunteers’ own skills and volunteers can be given the opportunity to teach any useful skills they may have. Occasionally, there may be a need on certain projects for specific skills/qualifications but generally anyone can get involved in teaching things like English or basic computer skills.
Nature or Wildlife Conservation
Volunteers on nature or wildlife conservation projects usually get involved in general day-to-day care of the animals and environment. Volunteers will usually find themselves taking part in some pretty unglamorous activities like mucking out of enclosures or even collecting faeces! All you need for these projects is the right attitude!
Do I need to know the local language?
On most volunteer abroad projects, English will be used and understood by all who are involved so learning the local language is not a necessity. However, you will inevitably find your experience easier and more rewarding if you make some attempt at learning a least a little of the local language.
However, if you are going to be volunteering in Latin America, you may find that some projects require at least basic Spanish. This is because English is not as widely spoken here and you will need to use Spanish to get around.
It should be noted that if you are joining an English teaching project, you are typically expected to use only English in the classroom, even in Latin America.
Get in touch with your volunteer abroad organisation to find out if there are any language requirements. Even if there aren’t we highly recommend at least a basic understanding of the local language.
Do I need to be physically fit?
Even for projects that do not require manual labour, there are still likely to be some conditions that are taxing – you are likely to be in remote areas, in harsh climates. Therefore, you should be in good physical condition when you join your program.
Also be aware that healthcare facilities are likely to be basic and/or some distance from where you are located. Therefore, it is extremely important to let your organisation know if you have any pre-existing medical conditions so that they can advise you accordingly.
Also, check with your travel insurance to see if you are covered for medical treatment in the country you will be in.
What is the minimum age to volunteer?
In most cases, volunteers need to be a minimum of 18 years of age.
There are some specialised projects aimed at teenagers aged 16-18 years old.
In some cases, children may be allowed to join their parents/family members on a volunteer project.
If you are under 18 or wish to bring a minor on a project with you, talk to the organisation BEFORE you apply.
Can any nationality volunteer?
Volunteer abroad organizations will accept people of any nationality.
However, your nationality may have certain visa restrictions in certain countries so remember to take this into account.
Generally, volunteers will be working under a tourist visa which often doesn’t require a lengthy application process. However, this varies according to the country you a visiting and your own nationality.
Get in touch with your volunteer abroad organisation to find out what the visa requirements are, especially if you have had difficulties travelling because of your nationality in the past.
Volunteering is an inclusive experience and as such whatever your level of education, whatever qualifications you might have, it is always possible to volunteer abroad. Everybody has something to offer!