Long-Term Volunteer Abroad OptionsNovember 30, 2012
Volunteering long-term is amazing. Not only are you able to really address the need that you are championing, but you also give yourself some time to gain valuable skills that are both useful to the project and to your resume.
When most people think of long-term volunteering, they almost always think of the Peace Corps as the only way to go. While the Peace Corps is truly a phenomenal experience, there are many other options to go for as to long-term volunteer trips. By long term, I generally mean anywhere between six months to a couple of years, so your trip could vary according to your needs.
Things to consider:
Volunteering abroad can be expensive, and if you plan to serve long-term, you need to make sure that you have the financial resources to foot the bill. Since many organizations offer discounts for long-term volunteers, it's a great idea to check with your point of contact to see if this is available.
You might also want to look into establishing your own residence, as renting a room might prove much cheaper than staying in project-endorsed housing. Some volunteer abroad organizations also provide stipends for long-term volunteers, so this is something to look for. Don't expect to make enough to save though—these stipends are usually equal to what a local would need to survive and will be just enough to get by.
Visas also are tricky if you plan on volunteering long-term. Many countries require you to establish a permanent residence and job in order to stay longer than six months. Be sure to do your research and to talk it over with your point of contact—they will have had experience with previous long-term volunteers and will be able to help you out.
Be aware of any check-in requirements that your host country may have for long-term visitors. Also, leaving to renew a passport may prove difficult in rural areas, so know what to do if you can't make it to the government bureau. Finally, staying inside one country for a lengthy period of time might prove impossible, so be prepared to ask about the typical proceedings for visa runs and the like.
Lastly, know what you're getting into. It might be a good idea to not commit to a long-term volunteering position until you have stayed at least a month in the project that you are considering. Something that might seem amazing at first could prove to be too tedious or impossible with a change of seasons. Program coordinators expect this to happen, so let them know of your intentions as you make your decision—you won't regret it!
Fundacion Mahatma Ghandi: Works in the areas of education, health, technical and professional formation, art, and the environment in the area of Las Terrenas.
Time for God: Christian volunteering organization geared at one-year projects that work in a variety of areas including education, environment, mission work, and community development.
Fabretto Children's Foundation: Works with impoverished Nicaraguan children and their families to help end the cycle of poverty through improving education, health, and nutrition. Prefers long-term volunteers.
Assumption Lay Volunteer Programme: works in community development with after-school clubs and promotes the youth development in underserved areas in the U.K. This program lasts for a year with an option to continue for a second year.
The Esther Honey Foundation: provides veterinary care in the Cook Islands. Volunteers may serve up to two years.
Be sure to do your research and to talk it over with your point of contact—they will have had experience with previous long-term volunteers and will be able to help you out.
Ak' Tenamit: works with indigenous populations in Guatemala in the area of healthcare and AIDS relief.
Bimini Biological Field Station: a marine lab dedicated to shark preservation and conservation. Provides research experience.
Thankfully, there are many options for long-term volunteering. I've listed just a few above, but if you do come across a program that doesn't specifically list long-term volunteer processions, just ask a point of contact—often they will be willing to work with you. After all, who wouldn't want a trained volunteer to stay for a while? It saves the organization time and money in training, and they are always happy to have an extra full-time, knowledgeable helper.