Guest Post: 6 of the Best Countries for Volunteers

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It’s not just the time of year for gift-giving and over-indulging in food. It’s also a time where most of us turn our minds towards those less fortunate than us and look for ways to give back. While this year my attention has been firmly focused on producing the Travel Blogging Calendar for charity, this guest post highlighted another way in which we, as travelers, can help those less fortunate.

The article below lists six of the best countries for volunteers, but it really does only scrape the tip of the iceberg. I’d love your thoughts.

6 of the Best Countries for Volunteers

Volunteering is a great way to see the world, to make a difference and to gain practical professional experience. Whatever reason you do it for, you will gain far more than you imagine before you embark on your journey. Some people are attracted to the least glamorous places on earth; while others favour volunteering in countries that already have a high international profile. For that reason it’s impossible to rank countries in terms of appeal. So in an alphabetical list, here are some of the countries that offer an incredible experience for volunteers:

Mexico

Mexico is a country of extremes. The country has one of the largest world economies and is home to the world’s richest man, while millions of people live in poverty and social deprivation. Mexico offers the chance for volunteering opportunities at every level of social development, from grassroots rural communities to civil engineering and technical infrastructure projects.

Nepal

 The classic hippy trail country, Nepal is a land-locked country of 27 million people and eight of the world’s highest mountains. It suffers from social isolation and struggles to provide even the most basic medical care to its people. If you are a willing volunteer and are looking for a real challenge, the rewards of spectacularly difficult landscape of Nepal could be the place for you.
Children in Nepal
Volunteering in Nepal gives you the opportunity to work with disadvantaged children. Photo courtesy of ilker

Peru

According to their director, Dr Peter Slowe, many of the people who visit Projects Abroad PRO and are looking for environmental projects, settle on a volunteering project in Peru. Remote settlements in the Amazon rainforest, Inca heritage and the warmth of the people all sound like things that would be highlighted in a corporate tourist brochure, but they are also reasons
why serious volunteers come to Peru. As well as volunteering on environment projects Peru offers volunteer opportunities for nursing abroad and childcare placements.
Peru flower
Peru’s natural beauty is a big part of its lure as a volunteer destination. Photo courtesy of IanZ

South Africa

Especially for older volunteers who remember the injustices of the apartheid era in South Africa, when Steve Biko was murdered and Nelson Mandela was still in prison, the chance to volunteer in South Africa is a chance to do more than boycott Barclays bank.

Sri Lanka

Volunteers are sometimes influenced by the religious background of the countries they choose. Those volunteering in Sri Lanka will find a tropical paradise with a genuinely tolerant, multi-ethnic and multi-faith population. It is a population in need of help to cope with the devastating effects of the Tsunami that destroyed much of the country’s emerging infrastructure in 2004. If you want to help re-build a beautiful country Sri Lanka is the place to volunteer.

Thailand

There are similar re-building opportunities in Thailand, where one of the biggest environmental threats is Western tourism. The poverty of many of the people make the  encroachment of big travel companies hard to resist, so this is one way for world travelers to make amends.
Volunteering in China
My mate, Lynchie is mobbed by excited kids as we volunteer in a disadvantaged school in Jiangsu province, China.

Your Say

Have you ever volunteered abroad? Where did you do it and how did you find the experience?
Do you think that volunteering abroad while on holiday is a good way to give back or a negative kind of ‘tourism’ that does more harm than good? Let’s get a discussion going.

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5 comments

  1. Great Post. I had great experiences volunteering in Peru. I would also add Bolivia to the list. Happy 2013 my friend

  2. Yes sometimes voluntourism is a negative kind of ‘tourism’ that does more harm than good.. But with enough briefing on the local culture to find ways to positively impact the country, i think volunteering your time while on holidays is the best travel experience you and the local community will get. That’s what I got when I went as a volunteer to India and Thai-Burma border.

    • I’ve definitely heard and read some negative things about those who treat volunteering as a vacation or a fun way to kill a few days. I’d love to do it for real myself someday, probably in SE Asia.

  3. Hey Chris, nice article. I would definitely add sudan. It’s a little hot 44 c but they definitely need help. Your new layout looks awesome as well. well done!

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