October 17, 2010

Free and Low Cost Volunteer Abroad in Africa

The continent of Africa is one of the most diverse in the world, with dozens of countries making up the the giant land mass.

The region also has a strong relationship with the United States in the form of missions and relief – the ongoing rebellions and fighting in many countries in Africa have left millions of its citizens in refugee camps, a large number of which are controlled by the United Nations or large relief groups.

Because of these large national relief organizations, there are many nonprofit jobs in Africa related to missions and refugee camps, and international volunteers are generally needed in some other, under-served areas. A popular way for international volunteers to become involved in service in Africa is through community development initiatives for parts of Africa that are politically stable, but are looking for more community and economic development to boost their economies and improve the lives of Africans.

There are many ways to become involved in community development projects in Africa for free as a volunteer. The term “community development” can mean many things to many people – in this post I will focus on volunteer opportunities in Africa that have an effect on the local communities in which they are located, either  through children, business or the environment.

Network for Community Development is a health care organization based in Uganda that is committed to improving health care services and materials delivery. They also sponsor a school-based program for volunteers to help teach young children about health care practices that can keep them well. There is a fee for volunteering, which covers primarily room and board (about $150/week). They are generally looking for health professionals with experience as nurses, psychiatric nursing, or pharmaceutical distribution.

Path to Africa is a volunteer placement organization in Tanzania whose mission is to connect international volunteers with volunteer projects in rural parts of Tanzania, which otherwise have limited access to basic amenities. Projects generally focus on children’s service and teaching. Path to Africa provides airport pick-up, visa assistance and ongoing support on the ground in Tanzania (they will even take you shopping for supplies your first day!). Due to the independent nature of the projects in Tanzania, Path to Africa provides a central location for volunteers to come together and get to know one another. The organization started as  a hostel in Moshi called Hostel Hoff where volunteers can stay their first night, or on any nights off. There is a cost for staying at the hostel, but not for volunteer placements.

Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa is based in Ghana, and runs a large number of projects related to community development for international volunteers. The Africa Business Development Projects looks for volunteers with some business experience to assist local business in Ghana with marketing and financial tasks, teaching some local business leaders techniques to make their businesses more efficient. Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa charges a small fee (about $100/week) for room and board in their volunteer house. They do require that you purchase for your volunteer stay (which is a good idea anyway) and ask for a minimum of 1 months stay in Accra.

International Work Camps Morocco gives international volunteers in Norther Africa the opportunity to work in work camps in Marrakech with orphans in need or extra support. Volunteers can teach, play and just hangout with the children as part of the volunteer experience. The only fee to volunteer is for housing; volunteers can choose a homestay, apartment or hostel, which will cause the price to vary.

These are just come of the free and low cost overseas volunteer opportunities that are available to international volunteers in Africa. There are many other ways to help out in Africa, so make sure that you keep searching until you find the appropriate project for you. Also keep in mind that if you find a great project that does charge for volunteering, make sure that you ask where the fee goes. Sometimes it goes as a donation to the organization, or for some volunteer support services. Don’t write-off a volunteer experience just because it charges a fee, just make sure that your money, and your time, are going to the right place.

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