Working in community development is perhaps one of the most in-demand, challenging, and diverse volunteer opportunities available on a global scale today. What could be more rewarding than immersing oneself in a new culture and empowering communities by helping them achieve the awareness necessary to have greater control over their environment? Community development breaks down into many different categories, but is generally defined as social groups of people working together towards a common goal to build a stronger community.

Photo credits: Possible Health.

Education: Although teaching English is the most popular subject in teach abroad programs, it isn't the only available option. There are opportunities to teach sports, music, health and computer literacy. Teaching abroad isn't necessarily limited to children either. There are lots of organizations out there who target people of all ages who will benefit from learning new skills. Previous experience in teaching is helpful, but for many programs all you need is vivacity and dedication.

Energy and Environmental Sustainability: Whether you have a background in engineering and natural resource management, or even just a passion for conservation, there are endless opportunities built around assisting communities in saving what they have and making the best use of it. Educating developing communities about renewable resources and sustainability will provide infinite opportunities for growth and conservation. There is a huge call for the spread of this information and a wealth of opportunity to achieve real change in this sphere, especially in developing and rebuilding countries.

Medical and Healthcare: Compassionate healthcare is always needed, especially in poverty-stricken countries who do not have the resources, man power or technology to combat widespread illness and disease. There are many choices out there for those interested in contributing their time and skill, whether it be in healthcare education, HIV/AIDS awareness, or disabled care, for all levels of interest and experience.

Women's Rights: Gender discrimination is a serious issue in all corners of the world, even even in your home country. But for some, it is a matter of basic human rights that are being violently neglected. Serious issues include and are not limited to the sex trade, lack of educational access, honor killings, and worse. Helping to empower women through education and healthcare are small, yet huge steps to helping equality become a reality.

Africa: Africa marks the top of the list as needing the most help in every channel. Limited access to education and healthcare effects all those below the poverty line. You can volunteer for human right's in Ghana, work in HIV/AIDS prevention in Kenya, become a medical volunteer in Tanzania, or even teach a range of subjects to children in Ethiopia. There is nothing you can't volunteer for in Africa. With over four million people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa today (and that's after a significant decline over the past decade), it's apparent there's still a lot of work to do out there.

Southeast Asia: As one of the major global centers of child trafficking, the empowerment of education goes a long way in Southeast Asia. Migrant workers of Southeast Asian countries often end up in forced labor, indebted servitude and sex trafficking while simply trying to find a better life for their families. Teaching abroad in SE Asia can help provide more opportunities for children and families throughout the region. Also, as an up and coming locale for ecotourism, there are plenty of chances to make an environmental difference in a place that can benefit greatly from your assistance.

South Asia: The rights of women and children are a central focus in South Asia, and are addressed by promoting sustainable livelihoods. Vocational and general education is one of the best ways to assist in giving confidence and hope to those who need it the most.

Anywhere, really: Asia and Africa definitely are up there, but there is a need for community development in every corner of this world. Whether you're rebuilding in Haiti, empowering women in the Middle East, or teaching in the orphanages of Peru, the opportunities are truly endless. You don't need to travel far to make a difference in this world. You only need to discover what you have to offer, and offer it. The rest falls into place.

  • UBELONG: A highly-rated organization with an excellent immersion program that specializes in local development projects.
  • Volunteers For Peace: With a diverse array of programs and destinations to choose from, and equally high ratings, Volunteers For Peace is a great organization to make that difference with.
  • Global Vision International: Dedicated to community development, GVI works from the ground up, helping communities build toward a better future with construction and conservation projects.
  • Developing World Connections: Similar in its mission, DWC works with volunteers and communities towards a more sustainable world. You can volunteer as a student or a team leader, giving you the ability to grow in a multitude of ways.
  • International Volunteer Headquarters: Affordable and widespread, IVHQ offers the global volunteer a plethora of options on where to go and what to do.

Contributed by Lynnea Aponte

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