Finding a position volunteering should not prove to be too difficult, especially when you consider that you\’re working for free. What organization doesn\’t want volunteers?
Despite that, there are some hoops to jump through. Many organizations, like the Peace Corps, have stringent application processes, with waiting periods and lots of forms to fill out. Some situations even ask you that you pay a deposit or pay for your own airfare to get to the remote location they could use your helping hands.
The Peace Corps is like the Walmart of volunteer options. It\’s the first one that comes to mind, and has the most tossed around name out there. Don\’t let that make you think getting into the Peace Corps is an easy process; they want college graduates, prefer bilingual applicants and you actually have to have a history of work and commitment.
It\’s a 27 month program, which umbrellas training and travel. You technically don\’t need a college degree, you are perfectly capable of getting in with a combination of college credits and work experience. The Peace Corps is separated into different areas for where you can better serve. While they educate adults and children, they also teach farming techniques and promote safe sex practices for the region.
Luckily for you, the website is very informative, has a human perspective, and is easy to navigate. Also, returned volunteers form a large community, so look for returned volunteers in your area and get a first-hand perspective to help you make your decision.
You must be a U.S. citizen to apply, and above 18 years of age. While the Peace Corps isn\’t a paid volunteer opportunity, they do offer a contract completion bonus of $7,425.
Don\’t like plane rides and scary drinking water? Stay in the U.S.! Americorps is a government-funded program that essentially works as a job-placement agency. They have different sectors you can work in, but most positions will put you in an inner-city school, or in a church-based set-up. You basically go where help is needed state-side. Americorps builds program after program, sometimes to help with disaster relief and sometimes to establish a new practice in a community.
The pay is close to minimum wage (enough to cover basic expenses), and the commitment is anywhere from 10 months to a year. Because it is a domestic program, you must be a U.S. citizen to apply.
WorldTeach is a program that was originally founded by a group of students from Harvard. Although the program has switched official hands, it is now housed under the Center for International Development at Harvard University. Which is pretty cool to put on your resume.
While they do have a few options of teaching abroad at no cost to yourself, many of their programs require a \’commitment\’. Some require only a deposit (which is returned), and some require both a deposit and a commitment. They also offer different time commitments. You can volunteer and teach for a summer or a year, or a semester, which is beneficial to those of us who are wary of traveling and/or volunteering abroad.
Now. A word to the wise. I\’m listing 3 programs that I personally know people who have left the states and returned safely. There are more. Many more. But, I highly advise you to find someone in your community who has volunteered, especially if you\’re looking into a program you\’ve never heard of.
Many websites ask for upwards of $20,000 for you to \’volunteer\’. If you have that kind of cash to blow on a volunteering opportunity, go for it. But there comes a time where a line is crossed; when is it no longer volunteering, and becoming you paying a company to give you that safari experience in Africa?
Volunteering shouldn\’t really ever \’cost\’ money, but if it does, anything over $5k is probably too much. Use your head. Be smart. Ask questions. And the tried and true are usually your best options.
Don\’t forget, volunteering is just work without pay. If you\’ve got some ailing relatives in Lithuania that could use a helping hand, that\’s volunteering, too. Get out of your comfort zone and get out there. Good luck!
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