August 22, 2010

Volunteer Abroad Spotlight: WorldTeach

There are quite a few teach abroad programs out there, many of which we have talked about on this blog or on JobMonkey.

World Teach is a small program with more than 20 years of experience sending volunteers abroad to teach English and other subjects in host communities in Latin America, the Pacific Islands, Asia and Africa. Read on to learn about what sets them apart from other teach abroad organizations.

WHO are they?

WorldTeach seems like it has been around forever, given it’s close community relationships and reputations. It was founded in 1986 (not exactly forever) by a group of Harvard students and has placed thousands of volunteers around the globe in teach abroad positions, but has maintained the feel of a small organization, committed to both expanding the experience of its volunteers and providing a valuable service to host communities.

WHAT do they want you to do?

WorldTeach volunteers are placed directly into the classroom – but the type of classroom varies from country to country. A typical placement might be teaching English to to younger children, or to adult businessmen and women. However, WorldTeach volunteers might be doing more than simple teaching English. Holding classes about HIV/AIDS awareness, computer skills or basic math and science can also be involved in the life of a WorldTeach volunteer.

I will disclose upfront that WorldTeach does require that you pay to volunteer – but only for some programs. Unlike most volunteer abroad programs that offer extensive staffing in the host country, WorldTeach has actively looked to programs that are of little or no cost to the volunteer by working with local governments. A number of WorldTeach programs, including those in Bangladesh and Micronesia, are free while other programs can cost up to $5,500.

WHERE might you go?

WorldTeach partners with educational institutions on the ground in countries including: Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Micronesia, Namibia and Thailand. Some placements occur in U.S. held territories like the Marshall Islands and American Samoa. Volunteers apply directly to projects in one of these locations.

WHEN can you go?

WorldTeach has three types of programs: year, semester and summer. Year programs are typically 11 months in length, while semester programs are five months and summer two months. Depending on the needs of the country and the length of the program, there are various “launch dates” throughout the year (while summer programs typically begin in June). Many of the year-long programs begin over the summer as well, but Thailand and Namibia (for example) depart in October and December respectively.

WHY are they awesome?

In my experience with WorldTeach, what really sets them apart is their training and ongoing support.

Each placement area has a program coordinator whose job it is to make sure that the volunteers can do theirs – this includes holding trainings about teacher effectiveness and skills, organizing social events and troubleshooting if need be. These program coordinators are typically former volunteers and/or former teachers themselves, and most of them have extensive experience in the host country.

I also love that the have trips that begin at various times throughout the year, and for varying lengths of times, which means that they are not only sending volunteers to foreign countries based on the country’s schedule and needs, but that volunteers can choose the commitment that works best for them.

But without a doubt, my favorite part of WorldTeach is their comprehensive fundraising guide for volunteers. Most programs cost somewhere in the ball park of $5,000 for a one-year volunteer experience, but WorldTeach hits the ground running with tools to help defray some of these costs – WorldTeach does not assume that volunteers will just pay these costs out of pocket, but rather encourages volunteers to involve family, friends and the community in not only the fundraising experience, but in the service experience as well.

HOW can you apply?

Before you apply, you should take advantage of the “How to Decide” feature on the WorldTeach website, which gives you short overviews of the programs organized by location, and includes departure information and cost. This is a great “at-a-glance” reference for those who are interested in teaching jobs abroad, but don’t really know where to begin. You can also read through the volunteer testimonials to get a sense of what day-to-day life is like for a WorldTeach volunteer, in their own words.

The application can be completed and submitted online at the WorldTeach website, and most programs (especially the year programs) require a deposit to hold you spot.

Have you worked or volunteered with WorldTeach? Do you have anything to add?

This is the second in a weekly series of spotlights. Some will focus on organizations and businesses, others on locations and cities, and occasionally people who have lived and worked abroad and can offer advice. We hope that you find them as you learn more about work abroad and volunteer overseas jobs.

Sign up for our newsletter!