There is more to working and living abroad than just earning money. Contrary to popular belief, not all individuals leave their home country for monetary reasons. A sizable number also leave in order to give back. The passion for volunteering is steadily taking hold in the hearts of both young and professional individuals. Each year, hundreds of individuals are sent to places like Asia, Europe, the Americas, etc. but a majority of volunteers end up in Africa.
Men and women over 18 are accepted as volunteers. Often, the only qualification is the drive to give back. Having a basic understanding of the English Language is also preferred. Basic knowledge French and Spanish language may also be helpful. But, over all, as long as an individual is of legal age and is willing to serve – he/she will most likely be qualified to become a volunteer in Africa.
Different volunteer organizations have different immersion periods. Some accept volunteers that stay in Africa for as little as two weeks. That doesn’t include the training period spent before the volunteer program actually starts. Training can last from 2 weeks to 6 months. The volunteer period can also last for months and months. Some volunteers even end up spending years in Africa. They do go home eventually, but most of them return with a deeper passion for volunteering.
A volunteer’s activity in Africa will depend on the type of volunteer program they applied to. Students are usually given assistant tasks – they may work in construction, well installations, classrooms, hospitals, etc. Professionals (i.e. doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, IT professionals) will most likely be given responsibilities that equal their skill level. These people may be called to head or assist in training and education. Doctors and nurses often work in hospitals or remote health centers.
Pay and Accommodation
Most Volunteer programs that go into Africa and to the rest of the world do not pay their volunteers. In fact, volunteers will be the ones to shoulder their flight expenses and accommodations. However, volunteer groups try to cut out on costs as much as possible. This means that volunteers are usually called to stay with local communities or in volunteer houses. Skilled volunteers who work as teachers, educators and trainers are sometimes paid a small fee. Others settle for food and accommodation alone.
Volunteers looking to visit poor countries abroad should not expect five star hotel accommodations. Volunteers would most likely live with a local host. This can mean living in a small hut with no water and electricity. However, some volunteer organizations set up volunteer houses where volunteers from all parts of the world live together.
Community Acceptance and Integration
Africans are used to having Caucasian volunteers. For centuries, they have only seen these men and women assist them – that is the reason why they find it strange that someone Hispanic or Asian would be willing to help them. Most Hispanic and Asian volunteers find that some people in the local African communities are indifferent towards them. However, they warm up as volunteers spend more time with them. The soon gain the respect and admiration of the people that they have set out to help.
How to Volunteer
Individuals who want to volunteer in Africa need only to submit their applications to any of the many organizations that deploy volunteers in Africa. Applications will then be reviewed for validity and qualification. Individuals who are accepted will then undergo trainings and briefings before deployment.
Organizations that Deploy Volunteers to Africa
Many international organizations deploy volunteers into Africa. A few of them are as follows:
VSO Bahaginan – the VSO Bahaginan accepts professional and student volunteers. Their volunteer programs last from 2 weeks to 16 weeks or more. VSO Bahaginan may be reached through their local offices. They also have several websites – the website for VSO Bahaginan’s Philippine chapter is - http://www.vsobahaginan.org.ph/
Volunteers for Peace (VFP) – VFP offers short-term volunteer programs. This program immerses their volunteers in community aide activities such as social work, education, construction, and health care. VFP may can be reached at - http://www.vfp.org/
Volunteer Africa – Volunteer Africa is an organization that accepts volunteer s of all ages and ethnicities. They offer 6 month volunteer programs. They usually focus on assisting orphaned children as well as women in need of medical attention. Volunteer in Africa also offers extended 14 month programs (training inclusive). They can be reached at - http://www.volunteerafrica.org/
Global Service Corps is another volunteer organization that deploys volunteers to Africa and to other countries around the world. They have programs for students, career professionals, retirees, families and groups. Their website is http://www.globalservicecorps.org/