Of the 16 months that my wife and I are traveling, we are spending 7 of them volunteering full time with local non-governmental organizations (in Birpara, India; Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka; and Accra, Ghana). Not only is this one of the most effective ways to interact with and learn about one’s host community and culture, but because we are volunteering through an actual relief/development organization (AJWS) and not a for-profit outfit, we do not have to pay outrageous fees in order to get our assignments (that we are both Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with professional skills to offer doesn’t hurt either). In his latest column at World Hum, Rolf Potts offers sound advice regarding volunteering abroadâ€”without going into debt for it.
He’s got great ideas on informal volunteering, but from experience, I’m more apt to stress Gregory Hubbs’ assertion in the article that “most volunteers are more of a liability until they are trained to help the local community.”
Whatever the case, if you are at all interested in incorporating a service component into your travels, read this column and follow the linksâ€”and good luck. It’s never as easy as you expect.