New Years is a time to reflect on the past but also look to the future and make goals. Making New Year’s resolutions often get’s mocked for how quickly resolutions are broken but I welcome the idea of a fresh start. The new year brings a clean slate and the opportunity to ponder what we want to accomplish and ultimately the type of person we want to be.
Common resolutions include losing weight and quitting smoking but two also frequently cited goals are to take a trip and to volunteer to help others usa.gov). You can combine volunteering and travel by volunteering abroad. There are so many opportunities out there for volunteer travel it can be overwhelming if you are just beginning to navigate your options. Some things to consider include
- How long can you be away? Is a week more realistic or would you like to spend a month or more abroad? There are opportunities for all different time frames. The longer you are in a location will of course deepen your experience but even with just a week you can have an amazing experience, build cross-cultural bridges and help with the sustainability of a local project.
- Do you have an special skills? Often if you have training or background in a certain field or profession you can find opportunities to use those skills on a project.
- Do your research before you go. Research the country you will be traveling to so you better understanding of the culture, history and political environment. You will also want to research the organization you choose to go with. Besides just looking at on organization’s website, you should also call up to talk to a representative, ask to talk to a past volunteer, and ask questions about how long they’ve been operating, how they make their local partners and what is included in the program fee. Other ideas of questions here.
International Volunteer Programs Association (IVPA) is also a resource for those interested in volunteering since our member organizations all run their own programs (meaning they are not just a placement agency), meet the IVPA Principles and Standards and have been through a rigorous application process.
IVPA’s current member list includes:
American Jewish World Services (AJWS)
American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad (AYUDA)
Child Family Health International