June 9, 2010

Last Minute Volunteer Opportunities Abroad – Make the Most of Summer Vacation

Whether you are a student, teacher, or a seasonal worker with some free time this summer, you can take advantage of great opportunities to do something meaningful and fun this summer. While we are already into June, plenty of organizations are still looking for eager volunteers to work for anywhere from two weeks to three months on all types of projects – from building eco-lodges to teaching school children the basics.

If you have ever through about taking a trip abroad to volunteer but weren’t sure if you had the time, the time is now for these overseas volunteer opportunities:

1)   Short-term placement organizations (like Cross-Cultural Solutions and United Planet) often offer so many volunteer placements that it is possible to find a project that isn’t full at the last-minute. Right now, there are openings for volunteers in China for healthcare volunteer projects and teaching, starting as early as mid-July with Cross Cultural Solutions. United Planet offers rolling start dates for community development volunteer projects in Africa throughout the summer. Just keep in mind that these programs are fee-based, and you might need to take sometime to fund raise for your volunteer adventure.

2)   “Voluntourism” or “Responsible Travel” describes short-term projects that combine vacation with good deeds. Many of these trips include stays on “workcamps” that offer free or low-cost room and board in exchange for a certain number of labor hours per day. Popular activities include farming and other agricultural activities. Workcamps are typically open year-round, and if there is room can accommodate last-minute volunteers for their work abroad. Service Civil International places last-minute volunteers in workcamps in France, Norway, Japan and Kosovo.

3)   For folks looking for a more, well, passive volunteer experience can take advantage of the many eco-lodges that have cropped up in lush locations in Central America. These lodges are designed to provide sustainable and affordable housing for travelers, and most offer day volunteer experiences in and around the lodge to help keep things up and running. The Rio Magnolia Eco Lodge in Costa Rica offers breathtaking scenery and adventure in a environmentally environment, and is currently accepting bookings for the summer.

4)   Disaster relief efforts are still going on in Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean that have been devastated by natural disasters. Volunteers for Peace is currently planning a trip to Haiti for the first week in July. Volunteers will help locals with farming and agricultural activities. This is a low-cost and culturally immersive volunteer opportunity that people are encouraged to become involved in, especially if they are interested in a rustic, hands-on, transformative adventure.

5)   And for the truly adventurous? How about tracking the elusive whale shark in Honduras! OneWorld365 (among others) offers 1-2 week diving trips for certified divers who want to spend their vacation time looking after rare underwater wildlife.  Since the best time to view the sharks includes the summer month of August, there is still time to join one of the expeditions into the underwater unknown!

Tips for Last-minute Travel

One major aspect of traveling abroad to volunteer is paying for airfare – the organizations listed here do not (in fact, very few do) pay for your airfare. You can find great last minute airline deals online that might help defray some of the travel costs. In some cases, talking directly to an airline about your plans and offering to fly standby can also help you get on a plane at the last minute, if you don’t mind waiting around in the airport for a while.

Also keep in mind for a last minute overseas volunteer trip that you need to check in about travel vs. work visas. Most countries will allow foreign citizens to stay in their country as a tourist even if they are volunteering – but these tourist visas generally only last for 90 days (sometimes less than that). If your volunteer project will last longer than a tourist visa, be aware that you will either have to take a trip across the border or make other arrangements.

If you aren’t ready for a last-minute volunteer opportunity, but some of these have piqued your interest in overseas volunteer opportunities, make sure that you check out the volunteer program listings on JobMonkey.com!

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