If you love working with kids, participating in a volunteer program where you care for children is a great way to make a direct impact on a community abroad. Impoverished children around the world are subjected to harsh living conditions, and volunteers are needed to help direct their lives in positive directions.
There are both short-term and long-term opportunities to be a volunteer in nearly every region of the world, and volunteers can work in a range of settings, from orphanages, to community centers and schools. Volunteers must be enthusiastic, caring, and willing to put in the necessary energy and effort.Photo credit: shootlah!.
Orphanage Work: With so many children orphaned worldwide on a daily basis there is a huge need for volunteers to assist in orphanages.
Volunteers in orphanages often engage in many different activities, allowing them to spend a great deal of time with the children while gaining experience in multiple aspects of caring for children.
Volunteer activities include teaching various subjects such as English and math, helping with homework, preparing meals, sharing meals with the children, doing arts and crafts, and planning and participating in recreational activities for the orphans.
The ages of the children will vary depending on the orphanage, but volunteers will typically have the opportunity to work with both infants and children ages 4-13.
Street Children: Millions of children each year end up living on the streets in countries all over the world. These children are especially vulnerable to forms of abuse and many drop out of school or have never been to school.
Some volunteer programs place participants in special centers that rescue children from living on the streets. These children may have grown up on the streets, have been abandoned, or have run away to escape violent households.
Volunteers at these centers can help out by assisting with running the center, spending time with the children, and acting as mentors.
For those who love sports there are also programs that allow volunteers to teach and play sports with street children. Such activities are aimed at bringing a positive influence to the difficult urban life these children face.
Teaching and Education: Help battle illiteracy in the developing world and improve the future prospects of disadvantaged children by volunteering in the classroom.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in education why not start now and provide impoverished children with an opportunity to enhance their livelihoods.
Teaching is also a great way for those who love children to interact with local youth on a daily basis and establish close bonds. Volunteers can teach English, basic subjects like math and art, sports, music, preventative health, and a host of other subjects.
Apart from teaching classes, volunteers in schools will also have the opportunity to play with the children and interact with students during meal times.
Africa: The AIDS epidemic has claimed and continues to claim the lives of numerous parents in Africa, leaving millions of children orphaned. Thus, there are many volunteer opportunities for volunteers at orphanages. These orphanages provide African children with food, informal education, and much needed support.
Schools in rural communities are also in need of volunteers to teach English and other basic subjects. In general, volunteers should be prepared for a setting where resources are scarce and living conditions are drastically different.
Asia: According to SOS Children’s Villages International, Asia has the largest number of orphans in the world at 68.9 million. Around 6% of all children in the region are orphans, but the percentage is higher in Cambodia, Laos, and Korea at 10%.
As with Africa, there are countless ways to get involved in orphanages as a volunteer, though because of the underdeveloped nature of much of the region there are ways to get involved in many other facets of caring for the children, such as education at primary schools.
Latin America: Although there also many opportunities in orphanage work in Latin America, the issue of street children is prevalent. These street children face physical, sexual, and mental health risks that could negatively shape the rest of their lives. The exact number of children living on the streets is unknown, but Brazil is considered to have the highest number.
Volunteers can work at after school programs to help these street children acquire the skills and education necessary to pursue opportunities outside the streets. These programs can help prevent street children from falling victim to risky behavior that often leads to unplanned pregnancies, violence, and other adverse consequences.
The Middle East: Due to regional conflicts, there is a high number of orphaned and refugee children in the Middle East. According to a recent survey done in Iraq, 800,000 to 1 million Iraqi children have lost one or both of their parents, and this number is only growing.
The increasing number of orphans has created a social crisis for countries in the Middle East, resulting in a need for extra assistance at orphanages.
Volunteers are also needed to help refugee children, who often struggle to keep up at school or drop out in order to find paid work. The issue of Syrian refugee children is particularly critical. According to the UN, half of the Syrian refugees forced to flee the Syrian conflict were children.
Most of these refugees end up in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Volunteers can search for volunteer opportunities at refugee camps or centers in order to help young refugee children who have gone through traumatic experiences.
- UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories and is the UN’s initiative to help children around the world. Visit their website to learn about what they’re doing to help impoverished children worldwide.
- Save the Children: Save the Children works to resolve the ongoing struggles, from poverty and hunger, to illiteracy and disease, children face every day.