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With the combination of events such as the rule of powerful indigenous communities, the European conquest, and Colombia's independence, Colombia has a rich history with a mix of cultures and influences. Today, Colombia's republic still sees internal conflict between political parties and struggle for several marginalized groups.
Health Care: Skilled medical volunteers can be of great help in Colombia. Colombia's health care system has gotten a lot of media and political attention in recent years. In 2012, Colombia will have universal health care. Don't let that fool you though - many disadvantaged citizens are still in great need of help and won't necessarily see benefits from the new health care system anytime soon. One of the country's biggest health issues are deadly diseases like malaria, HIV, and yellow fever. Malnutrition also affects many children in various ways. Whatever your interest in health may be, there are plenty of ways to educate and give greater access of health care to the population as a volunteer.
Conservation: Despite its prime location geographically, Colombia has big environmental issues that volunteers can lend a hand with. From the Andes to the Amazon rainforest to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, there is tons of worthwhile and fun outdoor environmental conservation work to be done. Deforestation is one of the largest environmental problems in Colombia. Although legal has been taken recently to protect Colombia's environmental resources, need your help. Other areas of conservation in Colombia include fighting pollution, wildlife preservation, ecotourism, and agricultural work.
Education: While there are many universities and schools available in Colombia, not all citizens have equal access. It's especially common in rural areas to find that teachers are often under qualified, resources are lacking, and secondary school isn't always offered. Attendance to primary and secondary school is mandated by law. Many NGOs work to send more Colombian children to school and close the education gap. Volunteers can make a difference by sharing their knowledge and teaching students a variety of subjects, including English.
Safety used to be a major concern for foreigners in Colombia due to terrorist activities and civil conflict. Luckily, most areas are much less dangerous than they used to be; some jungle regions are even under military guard on a regular basis. Generally, highly populated urban areas are considered safest. It's well worth your time to research the areas and neighborhoods you will be traveling to and be aware of all possible safety concerns.
Travelers should be sure to check MD Travel Health for vaccination recommendations well before a trip. Recommended shots include typhoid, hepatitis A and B, as well as malaria and yellow fever for those going to rural or jungle areas. Water is safe in urban areas but outside of the major cities only bottled water should be consumed.
If you are looking for culture, diversity, adventure, and meaningful travel look no further! Colombia has everything an international volunteer could ask for, so why wait? Check out the numerous options f or volunteering in Colombia to travel and make a difference.
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