If one thing inspires faith in humanity, it is how we help one another after a natural disaster. If you want to volunteer in disaster relief, such as through rebuilding and construction, medical assistance, or educational support, there are always opportunities to give back and support one another.
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One of the most unpredictable, and many times most devastating, things to happen to a country is a natural disaster. Regardless of a country’s economic or political standing, natural disasters can wreak havoc on a population causing a long recovery process.
Each scenario is different, but these situations often call for volunteers with a variety of backgrounds to help physically and emotionally rebuild affected communities. Regardless of the particular skill-set and background you bring to the table, there’s a good chance you have something to offer in volunteering abroad in an area affected by a natural disaster.
Common Disaster Relief Volunteer Opportunities
The most common types of volunteer abroad opportunities in disaster relief fall into three general areas:
Reconstruction and Rebuilding. Unsurprisingly, almost every natural disaster causes catastrophic building damage. This can vary widely, from hurricanes and typhoons and their unceasing winds and storm surges; earthquakes which reduce homes and buildings to rubble; or tornadoes, floods, and wildfire which erase structures completely. After any of these natural disasters, there is always valuable work to be done to rebuild vital community centers and homes for local residents.
Medical Relief and Support. If you have experience in the medical field, from nursing to psychology, your skills can be put to use in the wake of a natural disaster. From comforting a family to helping ensure that physical injuries heal safely and completely, many volunteers find their life’s work in natural disaster relief.
Educational and Social Assistance. Often overlooked, teachers and social workers who can help rebuild a community and return a sense of normalcy are crucial to long-term recovery efforts after a natural disaster. If you have skills or a passion for helping those in need rebuild their lives, there is always volunteer work to be done.
Things to Consider when Volunteering Abroad in Disaster Relief
When choosing an organization with which to volunteer abroad, it is important to do your research. While the motives may always be pure, particularly when it comes to disaster relief, having too many untrained volunteers in a region has the potential to cause more harm than good. For example, areas struck by a large-scale natural disaster may not have enough food or shelter to provide for its influx of volunteers. If the volunteers cannot be self-sustaining, they may create an added burden on the already suffering area.
Other volunteer organizations sometimes border on more of a “voluntourism” or “volunteer travel” system, which may be more of a vacation than a volunteer mission. While these could also be fun and still provide much-needed support, it’s a good idea to know exactly what you may be getting into ahead of time.
This is why a lot of international disaster relief organizations ask for monetary donations to help balance out the influx of volunteers. Therefore, even if it turns out that you are not able to take a couple of weeks or more off to help with international disaster relief, there are countless ways to help out from afar in the form of things like care packages and monetary donations.