So, you have decided you want to do something inspiring and life changing for both you and others. Volunteering abroad is a big commitment, and not just because you are leaving your home country where you feel safe and secure to go to foreign lands. There is also a ton of research to do, what to bring, what to expect, and, most importantly, what company to go through.
Why Do I Have to Pay to Volunteer Abroad?
Because they are doing a service without being compensated, most people believe that volunteering abroad will be completely free of charge. Once they begin to research different companies to volunteer abroad through, however, they realize that this definitely is not the case. Many companies can cost a few thousand, not including flight, immunizations, or visas. For example, Cross Cultural Solutions, an independent non-profit 501( c) ( 3) organization in the United States and international not-for-profit, charges a program fee from $2,923 for people from the U.S. looking to volunteer abroad for 2-12 weeks. This includes things such as accommodation, meals, and staff support, among other things.
Are There Any Affordable Programs to Volunteer Abroad With?
Because I have volunteered abroad and know from first-hand experience that many of these programs are extremely expensive, I was relieved to finally find one that was affordable. International Volunteer Headquarters has programs starting from just $180 for 1 week in Peru. Most are a bit more, but still in the low hundreds if you are only going for a few weeks.
When signing up to teach English in Thailand through International Volunteer Headquarters, I was extremely nervous. It said that meals and accommodation were included, but what if they were not? Would I have enough money to support myself? The program also said it would send someone to pick me up from the airport and I was anxious that they would not arrive. What was very comforting, however, was how once I was paired with an organization abroad I never felt on my own. Whenever I had questions I had someone to turn to who would give me answers. And, sure enough, when my plane landed in Thailand there was a representative from the international organization to pick me up and take me to my placement.
What Was The Experience Like?
Obviously each experience will be different, depending on where you are placed and what tasks you will be doing. Personally, my experience could be described as authentic and inspiring. The accommodations were nothing like a 5 star hotel, but consisted of bunks set in a rural area in Chian Rai, Thailand. Thai children would play soccer in the yard and other locals would play music. It was actually nicer that a hotel in the fact that you got more of a real experience of the culture.
In terms of food, volunteers were served three meals a day, consisting of homemade meats, rice, noodles, and vegetables. Everything was delicious and each volunteer was allowed as much as they wanted. Another great thing about having a Thai chef was that before meals volunteers could go teach the cook English. This was one of my favorite activities because it helped me form a bond with some of the Thai staff, as well as get a sneak peak at what was for dinner.
As for the actual duties and tasks, volunteers were given a lot of freedom and responsibility, creating their own lesson plans and activities and creating their own teaching props. All volunteers were given the opportunity to teach children of all levels, from pre-school to college, as well as participate in a homestay at a nearby village. With this volunteers could stay with a family in a village, getting to cook with the family and walk with the children to their school, where you would be teaching.
Overall, the experience was one I will never forget. Aside from helping others, it helped to show me how fortunate I really am to have the things that I do, and not everyone in the world is so lucky. The next time that I volunteer abroad, which I definitely plan to do, I will be using International Volunteer Headquarters again for a true cultural experience volunteering abroad.