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Types of Volunteer Service Opportunities

Short- and Long-Term Volunteer Placements

For those looking for a third-party organization to aid, organize and facilitate your volunteer service and experience, there are a number of agencies designed for this very purpose. While most charge high fees (between $1,000-$8,000 depending on length of stay), they also provide on-going assistance with visa requirements, housing (usually included in the fee) and three to seven days of initial instruction and training in your host country.

Some may also include airfare. Often your fee also includes a monthly living stipend to cover incidental costs such as toiletries, local travel and food.

These organizations typically focus on travel and volunteering as a way of bridging cultures and promoting cultural understanding through service. While most trips last only 1-3 weeks, some will have opportunities for those volunteers (as projects remain ongoing with rotating volunteers) who wish to stay for a longer period. In most cases, the organizations work with local NGOs to find short-term projects with attainable, demonstrable goals for volunteers, and typically focus on working with children, environmental conservation and housing initiatives. Groups specializing in short-term placements include Alliance Abroad Group, I-to-I, Cross-Cultural Solutions, Global Visions International, and United Planet.

Long-Term Volunteer Placements?

Long-term placements in non-government sponsored are generally project-based, fully immersed experiences with local NGOs, with support and training from an international organization. The Foundation for Sustainable Development 'ProCorps,' for example, "develops projects geared toward assessing organizations and their programs to find more efficient methods of project implementation and resource usage." Like many similar long-term organizations (like VEGlobal) they empower their volunteers to design and implement programs assessing the needs of the local population. Volunteers for Peace takes a different approach, organizing a variety of 'workcamps' which work with local NGOS to complete short-term projects in more than 20 areas (environment, health care, children...you name it!) while encouraging volunteers to make long-term commitments to multiple projects consecutively.

There are number of small organizations taking volunteers directly, some of which are affiliated with organizations in the U.S., such as Covenant House. These organizations have benefits in place to attract volunteers, such as affordable housing or meals.