Volunteer opportunities in education are widely available all over the world and there’s something to suit every area of expertise, skill level, and experience. As a volunteer educator, your students could be teenagers looking to learn English to better their career prospects, young mothers who need to know about nutrition, or retirees who want to learn how to use computers.
Volunteer educators have the power to bring about positive socioeconomic change across a broad range of fundamental aspects that constitute the overall welfare of a community. Make sure to match your skills with the right project that enables you to make a meaningful contribution in a country that has a need for your expertise and will really benefit from your time and effort.
Where to Go
Countries like India, Nepal, Cambodia, and Vietnam, among others in Asia, offer many opportunities for those interested in volunteering in education. The demand for volunteers is high because many children who live below the poverty line don’t have access to basic education.
For short-term volunteers, there may be little in the form of an arrangement other than a verbal agreement. Volunteers can teach everything from English, math, art, and music to computer literacy and other vocational skills.
South America is also popular with volunteer educators, especially those hoping to get a cultural immersion experience or improve their Spanish skills. Volunteering in South American can take on various forms: you may be tasked to teach English to children in Bolivia or basic financial literacy to single mothers in Colombia, just to name a few possible projects.
In addition to teaching English, volunteers in countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania can also find opportunities to spread HIV/AIDS awareness, give health, sanitation, and nutrition training, sports education, and work with special needs people.
Other than the regions mentioned above, there are also opportunities available in Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East such as Jordan and Palestine.
Volunteers interested in taking part in an education project can choose from:
- Instructor Training
- Administration Work
Volunteers who are native English speakers can get involved by teaching English to communities around the world. Some institutions require certifications such as TEFL and previous references, though others accept volunteers without formal qualifications even for a few weeks.
Volunteers may be able to teach their own courses depending on their skills and experience. A finance professional may be asked to impart basic economics training, for example. An entrepreneur might be asked to teach members of the community marketing skills and ways to improve profit.
Those who are less experienced may be asked to participate in homework help, after school tutoring, or as an assistant instructor.
Certified volunteers may also be asked to train local educators and instructors. For example, professionals who work with special needs children may be asked to present a seminar that will help local teachers identify the needs, empathize with, and understand how to best work with special needs children.
Volunteers may also take part in training instructors in computer literacy as well.
Some educational organizations may require volunteers to help with other roles such as administrative tasks, training administrative staff, and drafting grant application letters.
Planning Your Trip
Choosing the Right Program
Before you sign up for a volunteer program in education, list out all your skills and areas of expertise, i.e., topics that you could teach about. Make sure you are qualified to take on your responsibilities as a volunteer.
Whether you’re passionate about children’s education, adult education, healthcare, or female empowerment, look for an opportunity that suits your interests as well as skills.
If you’re nervous about teaching a class on your own, or don’t like public speaking, look to work as a teaching assistant or in administration. If you’re uncomfortable around young children, look for a position that works with adults or retirees.
Depending on the duration of your volunteer program, you might have to arrange and pay for your own accommodation. While the accommodation and living costs can be low in countries in Asia and South America, they can be significant in the Middle East and Europe. Talk to other volunteers and explore the possibility of sharing a bigger accommodation to lower costs.
If you’re volunteering in a new country, spend some time learning about the culture for a more rewarding experience. This includes but is not limited to traditions, customs, attire, gestures, language, festivals, celebrations, and dining etiquette.
Health & Safety
Ensure that you have all the right vaccinations for a region before your trip. It’s also helpful to have insurance when traveling for a long period of time.
Be aware of major social and political events taking place in the country so that you aren’t unexpectedly caught up in any riots, protests, or demonstrations.
Contributed by Natasha Amar