Volunteering abroad is a thought provoking, challenging and stimulating experience. For teens, the experience provides a new perspective on life, allowing them to perform activities in a new culture, with meaning and value.
Volunteering abroad can give a teen the opportunity to shadow people in different professions, gain insight to diverse cultures and have a life-changing experience.
According to Simone A. Bernstein, Co-Founder and President of VolunteenNation.org, students need to volunteer abroad in order to gain skills that will help them succeed in their future. For example, Shannon McNamara, began volunteering at age fifteen in Tanzania, and thus far, has donated 33,000 children’s books to girls in Africa. Her work has impacted more than 8,000 students and teachers in Africa, and has earned her numerous awards and recognitions.
However, before letting your teen volunteer abroad, it’s important for parents to ask certain basic essential questions when they contact the organization directly. These questions include:
- Who should I email/contact in your organization to obtain more information about the volunteer program?
- Who licenses your organization?
- Do you have any counselors at the volunteer site? If so, whom are they licensed by?
- What will my child be doing in the community? What are the expected tasks that my child will have to perform?
- Where will my child be volunteering? (ask for specific location and address)
- Is my child responsible for planning their own meals, travels and any other logistics?
- I am concerned about my child’s safety. What policies are in place to assure that my child is safe?
- Where and with whom will my child be residing?
Additionally, not all volunteer abroad programs provide volunteer opportunities for teens who are younger than 18 unless accompanied by a parent. But here are some international community service programs that are members of IVPA that do: