Become a Human Rights Volunteer Abroad

Africa and Asia, which have been plagued by racial and political discrimination for decades, have a number of NGOs and watch groups devoted to the awareness and prevention of human rights violations. Some groups look for volunteers to aid in the shelter of women and children who have been victims of crimes caused by government action, while other groups serve as watchdogs to support free and fair elections.

These groups are generally in need of volunteers with previous non-profit experience, who can handle working in an unstable political and social climate. India, for example, has a number of groups protecting and promoting the rights of women who have been discriminated against not only because of gender, but because of caste and religious affiliation. These groups provide self-help groups for women, as well as assistance with loans and home financing, and advice to support small businesses.

Types of Human Rights Volunteering

The most common type of human rights volunteer work abroad (also known as humanitarian aid work) is at refugee camps. Refugee camps are NGO or government sponsored locations where people who have been displaced by political unrest or other unsafe conditions can find basic shelter, water and food. Refugee camps can be of any size, and are by definition temporary. However, some countries have ongoing turmoil, forcing citizens into camps for decades.

Quick Fact: More than 250,000 refugees from Darfur live in refugee camps in Chad.

The largest refugee camps in the world are in Africa, namely in Chad and northeastern Kenya.

There are also large camps in Palestine, Sri Lanka, Libya and Turkey.

Volunteers at refugee camps will work with the camp administrators to deliver supplies, distribute medicines and other health care needs, and do anything else that contributes to keeping the camp running smoothly. One thing to be aware of in refugee camps is that they exist primarily to shelter people from unrest, and while most locations for camps are chosen in peaceful countries, there is still and element of safety risk for volunteers, and you should be comfortable with this before your sign up to volunteers.

Other human rights volunteer placements can include working with health care volunteers and agencies to create efficient distribution channels for medicines and immunizations.

Places to Find Human Rights Volunteer Jobs Overseas

There are a large number of organizations devoted to protecting basic human rights of people around the world.

  • The Canadian Palestine Education Exchange (CEPAL) sends student volunteers to Palestine to teach English and provide recreational activities to the children living in refugee camps. Volunteers commit for three months, and live full-time at the camps themselves.
  • Christian Peacekeeper Teams sends delegations of volunteers to conflict areas to document human right violations and participate in cultural learning in conflicted areas. Volunteers receive training, and travel in groups and staff to Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Iraq and African regions. Religious affiliation is a prerequisite for the program.
  • US AID sponsors both paid and volunteer internships at conflict locations around the world. There are a limited number of vacancies, so check the website often for opportunities.

Quick Summary:

  • Human rights volunteers provide assistance at refugee camps and document humans rights violations in conflict areas.
  • Overseas human rights volunteers should consider safety issues before they apply for positions
  • An interest in international development and humanitarian aid are essential for human rights volunteers abroad.


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