September 19, 2010

Free and Low Cost Volunteer Abroad in Asia

Just like our last post spotlighting free and low cost volunteering opportunities in Latin America, this week we will focus on volunteering in Asia.

Many of the work and volunteer study abroad experiences in the Far East focus on teaching and tutoring English, but there are many other ways that you can lend a hand to local organizations. This post will focus on opportunities working with children, but keep an eye out for subsequent post about the environment, human rights, and much more.

Free and low cost volunteering generally means that the organization for which you are working does not charge a fee, or that fee might be more modest and include things that you would have to pay for anyway, like housing and food. It is important to note that there are very few volunteer abroad experiences that are truly free – that is, they don’t charge a fee to volunteer AND they cover your living expenses or offer a stipend of some sort. In fact, many people who work abroad may not even get those things. Free volunteering means that the money that you spend out of pocket is just for your living expenses, or to make voluntary donations to the organization if you so choose.

Its also important to keep in mind that I don’t necessarily have any first-hand experience with these organizations, and including them here isn’t necessarily an endorsement. If you are looking for more in-depth reviews of work abroad and volunteer abroad programs, please keep an eye out for spotlight posts.

Free and Low-Cost Volunteering with Children in Asia

Impact Abroad places volunteers with various NGOs (non-governmental organizations) throughout China’s Yunnan Province, which boasts a diverse mix of cultures and environments. Yunnan is becoming a go-to destination for many tourists, and a volunteer experience can give you a chance to get an even closer glimpse at its unique cultural diversity. Projects including teaching young children English or simply spending time with children with disabilities and helping with day-to-day tasks. Impact Abroad goes so far as to tailor volunteer experiences to each volunteer, so you can apply at any time (up to two weeks) before you intend to arrive and stay for any amount of time that works best for you. They charge no fee to volunteer, and assist with housing placements with local host families.

Winrock International is a truly unique organization that recruits professionals to volunteer abroad for 2-3 weeks (usually during work vacations) to assist local nonprofits with projects that demand a certain type of expertise. Youth projects include developing leadership programs to give youth living in poverty access to the skills they need to find gainful employment. Volunteers also develop mentoring programs, provide advocacy assistance to combat issues like child labor and human trafficking. Winrock International is one of the “truly free” volunteer organizations, providing round-trip airfare, travel expenses and a living stipend. The programs rotate, so you’ll have to see what type of skills they are looking for at the moment, but you can also fill out an application listing your skills and interests at any time.

Project Why is a small New Dehli-based organization working with the poorest children in India.

They have a variety of projects that place volunteers with children either teaching them English, computer skills, or simply helping with the day-today tasks of children with special needs. Volunteers are expected to commit to stays of a few weeks, but not other specific skills are required.

The International Humanity Foundation has four locations, including one in Thailand and four centers in Indonesia (Jakarta, Bali, Aceh, and Medan) where volunteers assist teachers through IHF’s TEP (The Education Program). Children living in poverty are identified by the IHF and volunteers participate with them in informal educational programs. These programs are often the schooling to which poor children have access, since most schools charge tuition to attend. IHF coordinates sponsorship for school through donations, with volunteers staying connected with families to ensure that the funds are being used for education. The IHF charges a small monthly fee to volunteers.

These are just a few of the free and low cost volunteer programs in Asia. Check back for more volunteer opportunities in other areas and locations!

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