When one thinks of Europe, summer vacations visiting glamorous cities like Paris or Venice usually comes to mind. However, there is an entirely different aspect to Europe that is hardly ever thought of by the tourists, a side that could desperately use the help of volunteers. Whether that means teaching English in Spain or working with children in Poland, the number of opportunities to make a significant impact is countless. Best of all, you'll get to make a difference in a continent that is known for its richness in diversity and culture, so you'll be sure to always have something new to explore!
- Visas: Very easy, U.S. citizens won't need one
- Popular languages: English, German, French and Italian
- Poverty Level: 16.4% at or below poverty line.
Because of the diverse nature of Europe, there is bound to be a volunteering program that is suited for you. Whether you want to teach in front of a classroom to some very eager students or get your hands dirty building up a community, an adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you!
Paris has beautiful architecture!
Teaching English: While it's not unheard of to come across people who speak four to five languages in Europe, there is still a need for people to teach English. There are opportunities in both schools (public and private) and in private tutoring to teach the language. With the world having an increasingly global economy, English is a requirement for many professionals.
Community Development: While Europe is known to be an economic power that is well developed, there are still opportunities for one to get involved in community development. Whether this means getting involved on a month-long renovation project or helping out at the local shelter, there is no shortage of volunteering opportunities.
Castle Restoration: A cool new type of volunteer opportunity that recently has become more popular is castle restorations. Europe was at the heart of the medieval age and many remnants of it still remain. However, many of these buildings/castles are in poor condition and in need of restoration. Volunteering to restore these castles is perfect for any history buff!
- How to save money while volunteering: It's not a secret that Europe is expensive but you don't have to starve while you volunteer abroad. Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to stretch your Euro as long as possible. For starters, make sure you have a well thought out budget before you go Europe. You should research your destination country and have a general idea of how much food, transportation and housing will cost.
Brussels is a great volunteer destination!
On top of this information, one should definitely know how those numbers compare to how much you can afford. Knowing exactly how much you can spend while volunteering will keep you from overspending. Second, there are a significant number of programs that offer money saving measures such as homestays, so be sure to be on the look for those. Lastly, know that even though you're in Europe and want to explore, there are a lot of tourist traps out there that get real expensive real fast. Avoid them like the plague and you'll be fine.
- How Volunteering will help your future: Even the most cynical among us will admit that volunteering can change your life. Once you complete your volunteer experience, it is likely that your entire worldview will be more complete and whole, empowering you to be a more culturally aware person in general.
In addition, volunteers often see their career interests change after their experience. It isn't uncommon to hear about people develop new interests in international development, health-care, microfinance, etc. all which can lead to rich and fulfilling careers.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Europe: While health and safety is something that concerns many volunteers, it truly isn't an issue in Europe. The continent has some of the best health-care systems in the world and accessibility those care is not difficult. Simply put, there is nothing to worry about.
Volunteering abroad in Europe will change your life. There are few activities that can impact your life like volunteering can. So get off the couch and start making a real difference in the world today!
Contributed by Raj Patel
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