Volunteering with children is a popular choice for those seeking a meaningful experience overseas. There is an abundance of opportunities worldwide and the advantages are numerous, both for the volunteer and the children.

The children benefit from skills and knowledge you pass onto them, so not only can volunteering with children build confidence on a personal level, but it can also enhance your resume and impress future employers. Providing emotional, social and educational support to underprivileged children makes a positive impact on their lives and potentially shapes their future for the better, as well.

From a volunteer perspective, working with children is a deeply rewarding experience. Not only is it fun, but it offers a chance to develop self-confidence, leadership, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of another culture and make new friends.

It is important to find a balance between a destination which appeals to you and a program where your skills are needed and interests lie. Many placements combine volunteering with other activities such as safaris, tours to local attractions or adventure sports. This enables you to have a good balance between your volunteering activities and exploration of your chosen country.

It is likely that you will make friends with the staff where you volunteer. They will often be 'in the know' about the best beaches, hiking, restaurants and other hidden gems -- another perk of becoming a volunteer! Socializing with other volunteers and staff is a great way to chill out at the end of a volunteering day.

Thailand

For those wishing to explore their spiritual side, a placement teaching English to novice monks in Thailand would be a perfect choice. Thailand, the land of smiles, is a traveler-friendly country and a great place for volunteers traveling abroad for the first time.

Costa Rica

Wildlife lovers may wish to head to Costa Rica. Not only will you have the opportunity to make a difference at a care center or kindergarten, but also observe a wide variety of amazing wildlife in the many national parks. Costa Rica is a small country and consequently it is easy to get around when you have a day or two off.

Nepal

Trekking enthusiasts will find the allure of the Himalayas a temptation, where it is possible to volunteer at orphanages in the mountainous kingdom of Nepal. There are lots of opportunities to volunteer both in the capital of Kathmandu and the smaller towns and villages.

India

If you enjoy the buzz and cultural attractions of city living, volunteering with street kids in New Delhi could be an option worth consideration. There are around 2,500 children living in and around New Delhi Railway Station alone and volunteering in the city is a an intense, but rewarding experience.

There are a vast array of programs to choose from. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.

Teaching English

The world is your oyster! Voluntary teaching opportunities are plentiful all over the globe and there are few countries where teaching English isn't possible. 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.

Working in Orphanages & Children's Homes

A volunteer placement in an orphanage or children's home can involve a variety of activities from teaching to organizing games and even cooking or cleaning. Most of the opportunities are in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Children benefit from you bringing a fresh perspective to their lives and your presence can have an affirmative effect on their future.

Supporting Child Refugees

Volunteering in camps can greatly improve the quality of life for young refugees. Teaching English, counseling, child care, support for families, distributing supplies, and medical support are all in demand. With 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world, there are many placements to consider from supporting Burmese refugees in Thailand to Somalian or Burundian refugees in Kenya.

Sports Coaching

Becoming a volunteer sports coach is a fantastic for those who love sports and a great way to inspire underprivileged kids. 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 students who can shape their studies around a volunteer placement. Whatever your interests and skills, there are 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.

Helping Street Children

Volunteering with street children can be challenging but incredibly satisfying. The children frequently come from harsh circumstances and have suffered abuse or violence. These organizations provide food, shelter, and a safe haven. Children are often trained in various skills so that they may find employment later.

Empowering Young Girls & Women

Gender equality is an issue throughout the world. There are now several programs in Africa, India, and South East Asia, where it's possible to volunteer to help improve the lives of young females. Volunteering can involve providing education to girls who have no access to it, developing self-esteem and raising awareness of gender equality amongst both boys and girls.

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.

How to Choose a Program Volunteering with Children

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 from previous volunteers.

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.

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.

Volunteer accommodation comes in many styles, so it's important to make sure that you will be happy with the place you will be calling home for the duration of your stay. Homestays are most common. Living with a host family allows you to learn more about the local culture, pick up some of the language, and often make lifelong friends. Alternatively, accommodation may be in hostels or onsite in dorms or cabins.

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 an anti-malarial course. Some countries require a yellow fever certificate or documentation of your immunizations upon arrival.

If you are heading somewhere politically unstable, it might be wise to register with your embassy so they aware that you are in the country and can inform you if any major incidents break out.

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 T-shirts at home. In certain countries, it is necessary to be culturally sensitivity when dressing, eg covering your shoulders or wearing long pants. Following local customs shows respect and you will also avoid unwanted attention.

Security Checks -- Naturally, volunteering with children necessitates that certain precautions are taken by the program organizers. You will usually be asked to provide a police clearance, DPS check or national background check, and sign a code of behavior contract.

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.

Visas -- Get your paperwork in order. It may happen that you have to apply for a visa in advance, so make sure you apply in advance. Alternatively, you may be able to obtain a visa on arrival for some countries.

Guide Author
Photo of Sue King
Go Overseas Writer

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