/Types of Volunteer Programs

Types of Volunteer Programs

When you are researching what volunteer program to choose, you will come across thousands and thousands of opportunities. It can be overwhelming to narrow down your choices and ultimately make your decision. To help you along with your choice, we have broken down the types of volunteer programs available so you can find the perfect program for you.

Short Term Volunteer Programs

If this is your first foray into volunteering, choosing a yearlong program might not be the best idea. Short term volunteer abroad programs are great for people who are just getting into the volunteer world, for those who have a full time job and can only take off a few weeks at a time. Many of these programs focus on helping a community with a specific project such as building a house or a well. They often include cultural elements, aimed at providing volunteers with an intense blast of the local community so you get a better understanding of those you are helping.

These programs can be for profit or not for profit, so make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into and that you’re comfortable with the goals of the organization. They generally do not have an education or profession requirement for these programs, just a willingness to help.

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Photo Credit: Ms. Pheonix

Long Term Volunteer Programs

These programs, lasting usually six months or longer, typically involve the transfer of a skill. Because these skills are specific, the programs normally have an educational or professional requirement for volunteers. Some are teaching English, which requires you to have a TEFL certificate which you can obtain in about a month while others require you to have an advanced degree such as a Doctorate. These programs are typically non profit and help to build the community internally, as opposed to helping them externally.

Long term volunteering abroad programs can take a while to show progress so be aware of this before you commit. It isn’t like building a house and then you are done. It can take years before people can speak a language or learn to be a competent medical professional.

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Photo Credit: Rex Pe

Conservation or Environmental Programs

Programs of this type are focused on conservation of environments within the field. You won’t be sitting in an office during these programs but more likely, you’ll be helping protect local animals or wildlife. This may include building habitats, moving endangered animals to more appropriate locations, cleaning up beaches or replanting local flora. These programs are typically results driven with a specific goal that is reached in a shorter time frame than long term volunteer abroad programs.

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Photo Credit: Ed Uthman

Relief or Emergency Programs

When a disaster hits a region of the world, emergency services are called in to take care of the immediate needs of the community. These programs usually run on very short notice, as disasters are typically not planned. They focus on providing basic needs to the people such as food, water, shelter, sanitation and medicine. As they are very specific needs, the programs often require volunteers to have specific professional or educational qualifications in addition to prior experience.

Virtual Programs

Not all volunteering requires a person to leave their home. Some programs require people to volunteer virtually, which means you could be potentially helping more people around the world as opposed to just one region. These programs have varied requirements, depending on the position. Some may just be English practice via Skype while others are strategic planning for an organization. This is a great option for people who want to volunteer but cannot financially or physically afford to leave their home country.

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Photo Credit: Carissa Rogers


Author Bio: This is written by Alex Bradbeer, the creator and author of Finding The Freedom, an adventure travel blog focused on adventure and crazy off the beaten path destinations.