Volunteering Abroad: Some Alternative Ideas

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Volunteering is always a two-way street; selflessly help someone out with your own time and effort, and you’re guaranteed to be paid back in some type of social, cultural or intellectual currency. Here, we take a look at some of the brilliant volunteering opportunities available which you may not have considered.

Volunteering Abroad: Pyrenees, France
Cattle grazing near the Pyrenees, France – Image via Wikipedia

Lend a Helping Hand at a Commune

Not every volunteering opportunity has to be with a large company or charity, and the contemporary commune is testament to this. Setups such as the ‘Pilgrim’s Nest’ near the Pyrenees in France give travelers free accommodation in return for working in the garden, renovating the barn and looking after the animals. ‘Tigre Delta’ in Argentina works on a similar basis, offering the opportunity of being put up in a house built from recycled materials, and free tango lessons too! Not only do commune schemes like this give you the chance to meet people and talk in different languages, but the expensive fees often involved in working for bigger volunteer companies do not apply. If you’re struggling for money, volunteering your time to a commune could just be the way forward.

Volunteering Abroad: Tour Guide
Tour guide in Boston, MA – Image via Wikipedia

Show Off Your Knowledge

Most big cities in the world have guided tours, and many of these pay their workers on a tips-only basis. While this may not seem to be the most lucrative business to enter into (and it’s probably not), giving guided tours can be hugely beneficial to your language and culture skills while living in another country. One of the big benefits of working as a tour guide is that you can usually start out conversing in your own foreign language. The majority of tour companies worldwide will have an English language tour, so you can find your feet in your own language, and then maybe when you feel comfortable enough, switch to the native lingo. Giving the same guided tour over and over will soon become monotonous, and that’s a great reason to properly immerse yourself in the place you’re living, by persistently reading up on its history, chatting to locals (in the native language of course) and even slipping in some local jokes. You’ll earn yourself a reputation as a reputable guide this way too. And that means more tips!

Volunteering Abroad: Music Festival
Music Festival – Image via Wikipedia

Think Big!

Volunteering doesn’t have to be restricted to language-related events. Consider, for example, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Alright, it’s a while off yet, but when officials do begin the process of accepting over 60,000 volunteers, think what a fantastic language learning opportunity it would present to you (especially if learning Portuguese), not to mention an amazing all-round chance to talk to people from all over the world. You might also consider offering your services at overseas music festivals (Benicassim, for instance, is great if you have a decent grasp of Spanish) and other big cultural and sporting events. Organizers are always on the lookout for enthusiastic volunteers and as long as your language skills are of a certain caliber, you stand in good stead to land yourself a position.

Volunteering Abroad: Ellis Island
Ellis Island Immigration Museum – Image via Wikipedia

Keep it Local

By staying at home and volunteering in your own country, you can still learn a lot about foreign language and culture. How? You might, for example, want to lend your services to helping immigrants in your own country. The City University of New York takes on volunteers to help provide immigrants with free citizenship application assistance, incentives of which include getting to find out more about the countries from which the immigrants have traveled, and even getting to rub shoulders with some of the city’s influential officials who sponsor immigration events. If legal isn’t your area, you might consider volunteering your services as a home tutor. You could either do this off your own back, or become involved in an organized scheme. The Australian government’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) invites anyone who can speak English to volunteer a few hours of their time each week, to help an immigrant improve their language skills, and there are similar schemes open to those in other English-speaking countries.

Volunteering Abroad: Miami International Airport
Miami International Airport – Image via Wikipedia

Let the Countries Come to You

What’s the most international, multi-cultural, busy building you can think of? Yup, an airport. Certain airports, like Miami International, use groups of volunteers to come to the aid of passengers in need of assistance or information. In such roles, you’ll get the opportunity to practice as many languages as you want to, and there are sometimes further perks such as airline and airport discounts.


One Response to “ Volunteering Abroad: Some Alternative Ideas ”

  1. Lavell Beaty says:

    Letting the Countries come to you….As America becomes more divers…It seems to have become more segregated…Coming out of our comforts zones is becoming less popular…Knowing one or two other languages will allow one to better comprehend one own native way of communicating. As well as turning a stranger into a neighbor…

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