If you know your Shakespeare from your Pinter and your stage left from your stage right, perhaps a drama volunteering program is the best option for you. Showcase and build upon your skills by volunteering abroad -- perhaps working with children to develop their confidence or finding another outlet for your creativity while also exploring a new culture.
In many countries around the world, the focus of education is understandably zeroed in on the classroom: reading, writing, and mathematics. However, more people are starting to realize the value of a well-rounded approach to learning, including the benefits of teamwork, educational games, and confidence-building -- all of which the arts can provide.
This is where volunteering in drama comes in: here you have the opportunity to provide learners with soft skills and pass on innovative techniques. There's no denying the fact that creativity is important, and educators across the world are starting to understand and appreciate this fact. You could be a part of that movement!
Where to Go
Although it's easier to undertake a volunteering program in a country where you speak the language, the great thing about drama is that it transcends language. This means that your options are very much open, so your decision ultimately hinges on how much of a challenge you'd like to set yourself.
If you feel like diving off the deep end and undertaking a worthy challenge, volunteering as a drama teacher in China could be the choice for you. Educators in China are beginning to lean away from the traditions of rote learning and are now encouraging a more holistic approach. Plus, learning English is a huge priority for many students in China, so you'll be assisting in more ways than one.
They are seeking innovation and reform, and perhaps you could be the one to provide it through your drama skills. Of course, China also has a rich theater history that you can learn from, from Beijing Opera to the comedic xiangsheng performances of Da Shan.
The vibrant colors and crazy sights and smells of India are a glorious assault on the senses, and this could be your new home if you choose to volunteer in drama here. Engage children with drama workshops, help to build their confidence in performing, and grow their confidence by teaching them the skills they need. And there could hardly be a better place to hone your drama skills than in the home of Bollywood; there's a whole other side to film and cinematic culture to be explored here.
The Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple, the beaches of Goa: you could have any of these right across the road if you choose India as your destination.
Cheerful Rwandan kids are eager to learn from volunteers, and their easy smiles are sure to stay with you long after you leave. Drama-based education is a popular innovation here, and you could take part in a school program or even help teachers develop drama as a learning tool for their classrooms.
Rwanda is a great place to share the educational power of storytelling through drama, with willing learners and a welcoming society.
South Africa is an incredibly diverse nation with 11 official languages and a lot to offer incoming volunteers: safaris, mountains, and beaches. The rich political and social history provides fertile soil for the arts, which are often most expressive in cultures with a dramatic past themselves.
Here you can volunteer in a number of the creative arts, from music to dance. You might deliver workshops, lead productions, or oversee after-school clubs, to name just a few of the available options.
If you're keen on a European volunteering adventure, Romania is an intriguing choice. Help improve children's English through dramatic techniques and fun learning games and assist in delivering acting workshops. You can explore the countryside in your time off, and get the chance to a part of Europe that's a little more off the beaten track.
There are several different types of programs available for volunteering in drama.
Drama-based Teaching Placements
Some drama volunteer programs are more structured, requiring specific training beforehand. These programs may have a more intensive workload and a larger set of responsibilities in-country. With these programs, there might already be a direct aim in mind for the project, such as training teachers to use drama techniques as a learning tool.
These kinds of programs can be great resume-builders, especially for those pursuing a career path in teaching or the arts.
Teaching or Educational Assistance
Other programs provide the option for volunteers to assist with school lessons, after-school clubs, or workshops -- a great opportunity to have an impact without such a high level of responsibility. These programs usually allow volunteers to contribute outside of (or in addition to) the academic schooling environment.
Teachers often don't have the time to incorporate the creative arts into the classroom, and this is where volunteers come in. Oftentimes the opportunity for children to interact with a volunteer from another country is useful in itself, as it provides them with another perspective on the world.
General Teaching Placements with Extracurricular Drama Education
Finally, there are options where you'll be placed as a traditional classroom teacher but have the opportunity to bring drama into the curriculum or create an outlet for it as an extracurricular activity for your students.
This is a great way to gain formal experience as a teacher while also exploring and utilizing your passion for drama.
Planning Your Trip
It goes without saying that you'll need to plan ahead for any volunteering experience abroad. You have to choose from a whole range of program options, and then make the relevant preparations from vaccinations to visas. There are third-party providers who can help guide you through the process, but it's still worth being clued in so you make sure to check all the pre-departure buckets.
How to Choose a Drama Volunteer Program
Choosing a program depends on your own personal preference. You have to decide whether you want to lead or work as part of a team, and how much independence (or support) you'd like from the program. There are varying opportunities, from teaching drama to assisting with after-school activities.
There are also heaps of different locations to choose from, so you'll need to decide which country appeals to you the most. Do you want to incorporate the theater or cultural traditions of your destination into your teaching? Do you want to experiment with teaching in another language?
Health & Safety
It goes without saying that health and safety are paramount when volunteering abroad. Find out what vaccinations you need for your chosen destination, and do research to see what recommendations the equivalent of your government's state department makes about this country before you depart.
You should also always take out insurance, covering you for medical emergencies at the bare minimum. Don't take the risk!
Other Need to Know
It's highly likely that you'll be working with children as a drama volunteer. If this is the case, double check the country's requirements for working with children or at least check with your organization to see if they need any additional information from you before confirming your position.
Don't think that simply because you are working overseas the same due diligence doesn't apply as it would in your home country!
Drama Volunteer Abroad Programs
United Planet Service Scholarships
Several scholarships are available for those looking to volunteer for a short or long-term period abroad with the non-profit organization United Planet, who work with communities in over 35 countries around the world.
High Mountain Institute Award
If you’re looking at one of the four High Mountain Institute programs to Patagonia, consider applying for financial aid. Your application must include tax forms from the last two years and will be awarded based on SSS (school and student services calculator) used by National Association of Independent Schools, which HMI is apart of. In addition to tuition and other travel costs, High Mountain Institute also provides discounted gear rentals to financial aid recipients.
GoEco Volunteer Scholarships
To assist prospective volunteers in taking part in one of their programs, GoEco, an eco-tourism company, awards one flight voucher of $1,000 and waived fees for a two-week program, plus travel insurance to successful beneficiaries of their scholarships. To apply, you must be currently enrolled at an educational institution to be eligible for the award.