Volunteering with Kids
Opportunities for work are present everywhere in the developing world; from the back country to major cities, children are in need of extra support. This support can be anything from educational projects, homework tutoring, food donation distribution, vocational skills training or simply mentoring. Many volunteers find working with children to be the ultimate reward, and have the opportunity to form lasting relationships with needy children who are in turn introduced to the world outside of their home country.
Opportunities to do volunteer work in schools are available all over Latin America, Africa and Asia alike, with volunteers entering schools or community/after-school centers to help with homework or assist in the implementation of a new educational program.
More and more, schools and other institutions are taking a more holistic approach to learning and education, and programs raising awareness about health issues are being developed by NGOs and the volunteers working in them. Quite often in schools with limited funding, emphasis is placed on core knowledge (reading, writing, math) leaving little opportunity for the children to take part in creative pursuits. Many volunteers may find themselves working within the school or community center setting to encourage the children to express themselves in creative, artistic ways through painting, photography and dance programs. In harsher areas, programs can be focused on non-violence and abuse, in addition to education and recreation.
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Another option for working with children is a children’s home (or orphanage) setting. Most children’s homes in the developing world are drastically understaffed, and volunteers are needed to maintain an adequate level of care and attention for the children (of all ages) living within them. Many ambitious organizations have targeted children’s homes directly to implement programs, with the goal of offering abused and abandoned children the same opportunities as their privileged counterparts. Beyond these projects, many volunteers will find themselves working with their host organizations to bring about social service reform, to increase the amount of funding and support children receive, as well as raising awareness of the cycles of poverty that exist in countries where the majority of children live below the poverty line.
In countries like Mexico, Chile and Brazil there exist many opportunities to work with the youth homeless population (known as street kids). More than 40% of the 100,000 homeless children in the world live in Latin America, and many organizations have begun to target these children with educational and health, and set up shelters to help them transition from homelessness into foster care or adoption.
In addition throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, volunteers are needed to lend support for children living in refugee camps, who have been displaced due to civil war. These children are unable to attend regular schools and rely on volunteers to teach them reading, math and other basics within the camps. A more specific children’s initiative in Uganda has many NGOs being implemented with the purpose of locating children who were either kidnapped and forced to become soldiers or fled to avoid capture under the Lord’s Resistance Army.