Having a global impact doesn’t mean you have to leave your own home. In fact, with the advent of new digital learning tools, it’s now possible to support an international cause from the comfort of your living room by becoming a virtual volunteer.
Virtual volunteering abroad, or volunteering online, can take many forms: volunteer with children, offer your marketing or web development skills, or perhaps work in global health—the possibilities are endless. And the benefits are also noteworthy. Unlike in traditional volunteer programs, virtual volunteering allows you to maintain maximum flexibility (no need to coordinate it with spring break or vacation days) while also saving money on airfare and travel expenses.
So whether you’re looking to learn about a new part of the globe or you’re inspired to pitch in for a worthy cause, there are a number of reasons why virtual volunteering could be right for you.
Education and Youth Services
Being able to volunteer virtually means that it’s possible to have a huge impact on historically underserved communities around the world. Whether you hope to work in literacy, language development, health education, or youth mentorship, there are a number of ways to support community education projects.
These programs can give you classroom experience (albeit a virtual classroom), and you also may have the opportunity to work on your own language acquisition. And almost certainly you can expect to build lasting international connections. Whatever your reasons, virtual volunteer projects in education are unique opportunities to gain experience while simultaneously serving international communities.
These days, it’s easy to see how interconnected the world is when it comes to health and disease prevention. Whether working to support the needs of a local community or learning about public health in a larger scope, volunteering in the healthcare field can be a rewarding experience for you and patients alike.
Many virtual volunteer programs will aim to give you a well-rounded experience that includes clinical work, conversations with experts, and engagement with the local community and your fellow volunteers. The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children, for example, offers placements that range from health education to community development.
Business or Brand Development
If you have experience in marketing, web development, branding, or design, then you are sure to find many cool organizations that would love your help. NGOs and nonprofits around the world seek out business-savvy volunteers to help them make a larger impact and reach audiences who can offer support. Virtual volunteering can be especially relevant in these fields, since most of this work can be done digitally.
As always, volunteering is a win-win, since not only will you help traditionally underserved communities, but you can also build your portfolio and strengthen your resume. Programs such as Experteering through MovingWorlds make sure to put your own professional development at the center of your experience.
While volunteering online may seem like an unusual choice, it’s actually a great opportunity to have a positive impact in our global community without breaking the bank. There are a number of things to keep in mind when deciding to volunteer, such as your desired impact, budget, and expectations. Here are some unique aspects of virtual volunteering to consider before planning your experience:
While volunteering is generally good, it can become a bit complicated when intertwined with tourism. Voluntourism, the trend of combining a volunteer trip with tourism, can be rewarding and impactful, but it can also leave communities without the long-lasting support they need. Virtual volunteering helps to eliminate this ethical quandary since projects aren’t limited to weeks, but can span months and even years.
It’s still important to make sure that program fees (if any) are being used to support the community and project. Generally, though, there are fewer costs involved, so you can feel more confident that your impact is positive and that your support will have a lasting effect on a community.
Regardless, it’s important to make sure that you’re supporting a project and program that is responsible. You can read more about choosing a volunteer program here.
Making friends abroad takes on a whole new meaning when you are already digitally bonded! It can be easier to make and retain friends over the long term when you are already used to connecting online. And especially for friends that you’ll make in your local community, it can be very meaningful to have the tools to stay connected even after your project is completed.
With carbon emissions on all of our minds, it’s important to note that virtual volunteering means no flights and a lesser environmental impact. It’s basically travel without the carbon footprint!
Definitely not least on our list of reasons to virtually volunteer abroad is the reduced costs. Not only are program fees on the lower end (fees can vary widely but can be as low as $250/week or even free!), but you also don’t have to factor in airfare, accommodation, meals, or other travel expenses. Plus, you won’t have to give up your other commitments, such as a part-time job!
Before committing to a volunteer program, make sure it suits your goals and abilities. Is there a language requirement? Will they be able to provide you with a reference if need be? Will your schedule match their time commitment needs?
Even though virtual volunteering might seem less formal than on-site programs, it’s important to treat the experience as you would one in another country.
Ask questions and be professional. And most importantly, make friends! Connecting with a local community can be the most impactful part of any volunteer experience, so even though you may be thousands of miles away, rely on technology to form lasting bonds with the folks you are working with and serving.
In the age of COVID-19, many of us are feeling disconnected from the global community. Here at Go Overseas, we think intercultural connection is all the more important in the face of a global pandemic. New technologies and digital learning can allow us all to virtually experience new cultures, learn new languages, and connect with new people. We’d like to encourage our Go Overseas community to explore digital opportunities and continue to embrace our global interconnectedness.