What are the most popular volunteer abroad projects?

There are a vast array of volunteer abroad projects, based in many different countries and carrying out different kinds of work. For many years, one of the regions with a large number of popular volunteer abroad opportunities has been Africa where a large amount of the work is work with children and community regeneration. For more ecological projects volunteers tend to head to Costa Rica for turtle conversation, Sri Lanka for elephant work and China for panda conversation. Wildlife projects can also be found in various parts of Africa as well as working on HIV/AIDS related projects. There are even projects in Nepal with Buddhist monks.

  Children: Child related projects include orphanages, day care and various kinds of work supporting street children. 80% of volunteers however, choose to work in orphanages. Working in an orphanage tends to involve, preparing meals for the children, helping to take them to school or assisting with teaching if it takes place on site. Volunteers are likely to also be expected to help with general maintenance of the orphanage including building and gardening projects depending on the orphanage's needs.

Teaching:Teaching work is usually based in basic community schools, teaching children and sometimes adults a variety of subjects. Teaching projects are very popular across the board with volunteers as it is usually possible to find a teaching project that matches your background although most schools require key skills, i.e. English, maths and basic science.

Medical: Medial volunteer abroad opportunities are usually only open to those with a medical background and are therefore popular amongst medicine and nursing graduates. On these kinds of projects, you will be helping to administer medical care in areas with little access to even basic medical care.

Women projects: Gender inequality is an issue that exists all over the world. The impact of this inequality is magnified in developing countries where quality of living is significantly lower for women. Volunteer looking to work in this area can expect to contribute to women's education in places where female education has traditionally been neglected, facilitating vocational training and contributing to female-owned businesses, work in female-focussed healthcare issues including sexual health and work in shelters and homes.

Buddhistmonk teaching in Nepal: Thousands of Tibetans are currently living in exile in the mountains of Nepal where they are free to practice their religion and rebuild their culture. In recent years, there has been an increase in the need for young monks to learn English. Volunteers typically live in the monastery where they can observe first hand the way of life there and are usually invited to sit in on chanting and prayer sessions.

Elephant conservation in Sri Lanka and Thailand: Volunteers interested in wildlife conservation should consider a project at an elephant orphanage or sanctuary in Sri Lanka or Thailand. Here, volunteer work is hands on and volunteers are expected to get involved in all aspects of caring for the elephants including feeding, bathing and mucking out of the enclosures. Volunteers also get the opportunity to watch the elephants playing and bathing in river.

Turtle conservation- In recent years, tourism has increased rapidly in Costa Rica, primarily around ecotourism. However, one of the adverse effects of the sharp increase in tourists has been disruption to the nesting patterns of sea turtles, both accidental and malicious. Volunteers working in turtle conversation will find themselves taking it in turns to carry out a number of tasks such as mapping the locations of the turtle nests, monitoring the nests and taking care of newly-hatched turtles and ensuring their safe return to the sea.

Wildlife conservation in Africa: Another extremely popular volunteer abroad project is working in wildlife conservation across Africa. Here, volunteers can expect to see the big 5 (lions, elephants, buffalo, leopard and rhino) as well as other wildlife, all in their natural habitat. Working in animal conservation in Africa can involve working directly with refuges where you can expect to care for the animals and also to work on building and maintenance and even teaching in the Bushman Schools.

Panda conservation in china: Much like the other animal conservation projects, working on a panda conservation project involves getting involved in the pandas' day-to-day care tasks such as feeding, washing and taking care of the enclosures where the pandas spend their time. Volunteers may also be asked to help with research tasks such as collecting and weighing of panda faeces.

How can I select the right project for me?

Whatever your skill set and interests, it will be possible to find the volunteer project that is right for you. With the major exception of medical-related projects, it is usually to find a role for anybody who is suitably interested on most projects. The primary pre-requisites are passion and dedication and you are advised to choose the program that you are most interested in.

Here are some general tips to hep you to select the correct project for you:

  • Where is your heart drawn? - the fact is that if you are not passionate about the project you are working on, you will not get as much as you should from it, nor will you give as much as you should. Decide if you are interested in working with children, wit women, with animals. Follow your heart.
  • Does the project urgently need help? - the next step is to find out how urgently your project actually requires help. Certain projects are usually always looking for volunteers such as education and work with kids. Others such as environmental and conservation work can be seasonal and actually builds up a waiting list.
  • Is project making real impact? - If possible, do some research of your own into the projects you are hoping to join to find out how much of an impact the project is actually having. You can find reviews of previous volunteers online or look for blogs articles about what they have done.
  • Can you make some real impact? – Find out what kind of work the volunteer typically do and if you feel it is important enough for you to feel like you are genuinely contributing.
  • How safe is this project? - Whilst most volunteer abroad projects take place in potentially dangerous areas, carry out some research of your own into how dangerous the area you are going to and what measures the project leaders take to ensure your safety. For example, will you be expected to travel alone in dangerous areas Is there high incidence of crime?

Review of the project – Nowadays, it couldn't be easier to find the best volunteer abroad programs online by looking at reviews from previous volunteers. Most volunteer abroad organisations post reviews on their websites but these are obviously likely to be somewhat biased. There are also some more neutral websites where volunteers can be honest about their experiences. Also see if anyone has blogged about their experiences and even try to get in touch with volunteer directly. Most volunteers, will want to advise people against working with organisations with whom they had negative experiences. Conversely, if a volunteer had a great experience, they will want to support that organisation.