Liberia is a dynamic and fascinating nation, home to miles of pristine untouched rainforest, powdery white beaches, and bustling cities full of life and commerce. It is also, however, a country deeply affected by two recent civil wars and an even more recent Ebola epidemic, from which it is still trying to recover.
Volunteers in Liberia will be working within some of West Africa’s most deprived communities, helping the country rebuild after the many disasters that have afflicted it. There is a particular demand for assistance in healthcare, after the country’s medical resources were decimated in the wars and then overextended during the outbreak.
Perhaps the best thing about Liberia is the sense of hope that its people still embody. Despite everything it has been through, this is a country that continues to look forward. By volunteering here, you will be contributing to Liberia's bright future and making a real difference at a pivotal time in the country's history.
Liberia has a long history of conflict, which has left behind many issues to be addressed. Charitable organizations in the country tackle all sorts of socioeconomic problems, with the three below being some of the most prominent.
The combination of two civil wars and an Ebola outbreak in 2014 has had a devastating effect on Liberia’s healthcare infrastructure. After the wars, 95% of the country’s health facilities had been destroyed, leaving behind about 50 doctors in the entirety of the country. There is still much work to do to repair the damage left behind by the conflict.
Volunteers with medical experience can help provide life-saving care to communities throughout the country, while others can help through education initiatives, outreach programs, administrative tasks, or even construction.
Despite having the only democratically-elected female leader on the African continent, Liberia can still be a difficult and dangerous place for women and girls. Rape and sexual assault are common and education for young girls is relatively rare.
As a volunteer, you can be involved in a variety of programs that offer protection, education, and empowerment to women and girls, including enterprise schemes, schools, and women’s shelters.
Youth programs in Liberia aim to provide young people with cultural and social experiences that keep them away from crime and help them build a better future for themselves and their country. Several of these organizations aim to empower the young people of Liberia to improve their community by teaching them about civic engagement and social business.
As a youth development volunteer, you could be involved in workshops, events, mentorship schemes, or classroom teaching.
Planning Your Trip
Liberia is a beautiful and vibrant country, with a culture largely modeled on the U.S. However, infrastructure problems and widespread deprivation can make it difficult for foreigners to adjust at first. Your volunteering organization will support you through this process until you feel at home in the country.
Where To Volunteer In Liberia
Some volunteering placements in Liberia will be based in remote towns or villages, but most organizations are based in one of the larger cities.
Monrovia is the capital of Liberia and its cultural and economic center. It suffered greatly during the civil wars, but is now a vibrant place, with signs of prosperity and hope for a better future. It’s not the prettiest place in the country, but by far the most exciting.
Salala contains several camps for internally displaced refugees from both civil wars. Many organizations operate here to provide support and relief, including education, healthcare, and enterprise initiatives.
Robertsport is a quiet coastal town in Liberia that has acquired a name for itself on the surfer scene. An ideal choice for volunteers looking to try out some waves, Robertsport is also home to healthcare and community development initiatives.
Housing & Accommodation
Housing will almost always be provided by your volunteering organization. The standard of living will vary, but be prepared for very simple arrangements. It is important to understand that the country has experienced devastating damage and that some basic comforts are rare outside of Monrovia.
If your organization does not offer accommodation, your best option will be to stay with a host family. This will cost about $100-$150 a month and is a great way to get fully immersed in everyday Liberian life and culture.
Language Requirements & Tips
The official language of Liberia is English. This is most commonly spoken in the capital and other larger cities. In more remote areas, locals may speak one of many native languages.
For the most part, you will be able to communicate with people using English. If you end up working somewhere where another language is prominent, an effort to learn a couple of simple words and greetings will be appreciated by the locals.
Liberians dress quite conservatively, so bring clothes that cover both arms and legs. In order to survive the heat, stick to lightweight and comfortable fabrics. This style of dress will also protect you from the sun and mosquitos, although you should still bring sunscreen for your face and hands.
A few areas of Liberia get quite a lot of rainfall, so bring a light rain jacket, especially if your volunteer work takes place outdoors.
The cost of living in Liberia is quite low. As long as you shop from local vendors, you can feed yourself for under $10 a day, less if you have the ability to cook your own meals at your accommodation.
You will need a visa to volunteer in Liberia, which you should apply for at least two weeks before your departure. If you are volunteering for between 30 and 90 days, you will need a Temporary Stay stamp. If you plan to volunteer for longer, you will need to apply for a Resident’s Permit. Get in touch with your local Liberian Embassy for more detailed guidance.
Health & Safety
Liberia suffered a huge blow to its healthcare facilities during the war and the subsequent Ebola outbreak. It can be difficult to receive high-quality health care, and crime is a problem in cities. That said, most volunteers in Liberia do not have any problems with health and safety.
The healthcare system in Liberia is extremely strained. Hospitals in Monrovia provide a decent standard of care, but outside the capital, you may not have any nearby health facilities. Cash payment is usually required beforehand. Health insurance is crucial, and you should especially check your insurer’s policy’s for reimbursement and transport back home in case of an emergency.
You will need a yellow fever vaccination before entering Liberia and malaria medication is recommended as it is a risk throughout the country.
Tap water is not safe to drink. You should only use sealed, bottled water, even for brushing your teeth.
Certain parts of Liberia do have high crime rates, but common sense and preparation should protect you from any incidents. Keep the following in mind to stay safe during your time as a volunteer:
- Avoid walking alone at night
- Unless you are there with an organization, avoid slums and other deprived areas like West Point in Monrovia
- Do not carry valuables or large sums of cash with you
- Lock your doors at night
- Use private transportation where possible
Female volunteers need to be particularly careful, as the country has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual assault in the world. Traveling with a man is the safest way to avoid unwanted attention.
These warnings may seem scary, but being informed about the potential dangers is the best way to stay safe. The majority of volunteers have extremely positive experiences, especially if they have chosen a reliable volunteer organization to help them throughout the process.