Childcare Volunteer Programs
Guide to childcare volunteering abroad
Volunteering with children is a popular choice for those seeking a meaningful experience overseas. However, not every provider offering childcare volunteer experiences has the children’s best interests in mind. Because of this, it’s important to select a program that prioritizes the safety, happiness, and well-being of the kids in their care above the wants and needs of the volunteer.
Unfortunately, orphanage scams exploiting children aren’t uncommon. Here at GO, we don’t want to discourage potential volunteers who are passionate about working with children but we do want to stress the importance of knowing the responsibility you bear when working with vulnerable populations. Programs on this site are reviewed by participants who provide feedback on their experiences. These reviews, paired with other research you’ll conduct into the provider, will give you a clearer idea if it’s a genuinely beneficial program for the children involved.
That said, there are a range of enriching, fun, and beneficial programs that center around volunteer work with kids abroad. Leading afterschool programs, coaching sports, and looking after children of mothers who are working or studying are all great ways to hang out with super cool kids in a safe environment.
There are several types of ethical childcare volunteering programs to choose from. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.
Voluntary teaching opportunities are plentiful all over the globe. Not only do English teachers provide much-needed education to children who would otherwise not have the opportunity to learn the language, but a teaching placement offers excellent practical experience for those considering a teaching career.
Supporting refugee children
Volunteering in refugee camps has the potential to improve the quality of life for young refugees. Teaching English, counseling, providing child care, and leading games, sports, and arts, are all in demand for qualified professionals. With over 108 million forcibly displaced people in the world, there are many placements to consider.
Becoming a volunteer sports coach is a fantastic option for those who love being active and want to inspire kids through the power of team sports. Whether it be soccer or basketball, sharing your passion and knowledge is both fun and rewarding. You can teach sports in communities, children's homes, schools, summer camps, and clubs.
Summer camp counseling
Summer camps are particularly appealing to college students who can fit a summer volunteer placement around their studies. Whatever your interests and skills, there is a wealth of activities to teach or organize at summer camps around the world, from arts and crafts to fishing. Children come from all walks of life and are able to meet other kids from all over the world, too.
How to choose a childcare volunteer program
Apart from the obvious things such as your destination and type of volunteering, you will want to find out a little more about the program you are considering.
Make sure you know exactly what to expect. Ask who the children you will be caring for are, what their backgrounds are, and how your volunteering will help support them. It is also important to establish that the program is ethical -- ask for a breakdown of where your payment will go and check reviews on GO from previous volunteers.
Learn more about ethical volunteering with children.
Some other questions to ask:
- Support: You may wish to ask about the in-country support that is provided. If you have any problems or issues during your stay, these are the people that you need to contact. Many organizations provide 24-hour support to give you complete peace of mind.
- Meals: Find out if meals are provided and what sort of food you will be eating. If you follow a specific diet, ensure that your requirements will be taken into consideration.
- Housing: Volunteer accommodation comes in many styles, so it's essential to make sure that you will be happy with the place you will be calling home for the duration of your stay. Examples of common accommodation types provided include homestays, dorms, or hostels.
Planning your trip
When you are in the planning stages of your volunteering adventure, there are a number of practicalities to bear in mind. Here are some of them.
Health & safety
Make sure you are up to date with any vaccinations you need for the country you are visiting. Depending on your destination, you may need to take anti-malaria pills during your time abroad. Some countries require a yellow fever certificate or documentation of your immunizations upon arrival.
Packing a small first aid kit for yourself that includes pain relievers and over-the-counter medicine for stomach upset can save you the trouble of trying to find a pharmacy when you’re feeling ill.
If you are heading somewhere politically unstable, it might be wise to register with your embassy so they are aware that you are overseas and can inform you if any major incidents that occur as well as plans for evacuation.
Other need to know
- Clothing: Be savvy about what you pack. If you are teaching, you'll be expected to dress a little more formally. But be warned, classrooms can also be very hot. Volunteers who are involved in outdoor activities or arts and crafts are likely to get messy, so leave your best clothes at home. In certain countries, it is necessary to be culturally sensitive when dressing, so do some research and be mindful about things like covering your shoulders or wearing long pants or skirts. Following local customs shows respect and you will also avoid unwanted attention.
- Background checks: Volunteering with children means that certain precautions need to be taken by the program organizers. You will usually be asked to provide a police clearance or national background check and to sign a code of conduct contract. These are for the protection of the children so be sure to have all your paperwork taken care of ahead of time.
- Currency: Find out which currency the country you are heading to uses. If you can, buy some in your home country. Sometimes you will have to wait until arrival at your destination and exchange or withdraw local currency at the airport. You may not have ready access to ATMs depending on your location so find out if you need to withdraw a larger sum to cover any additional expenses throughout your stay.
- Visas: Depending on your destination and/or program length, you may need a visa. This usually entails gathering key documents provided by your program along with any background checks and submitting them to the destination’s local consulate in your home country. Sometimes, you may be able to obtain a visa on arrival for some countries. It’s key to figure visa requirements out with your program well in advance of departure.