When it comes to volunteering, many people settle for the default options taken by generations of young people before them – options that don’t really afford as much opportunity for learning, since they will be going to places where everybody is used to people from their background, and lots of allowances are made for them. Often, they don’t realize that there are other options. Some countries and regions are overlooked – places that are hard to get to or that have been shattered by war – and need volunteers more urgently than anywhere. It is possible to work in places like this, and as well as making a huge difference in local people’s lives, it can be a far more immersive, challenging and eye-opening experience.
After the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime and its bloody civil war, Cambodia was hit by an AIDS epidemic fueled by sex tourism and desperate people turning to injecting drugs for comfort. Charities are focusing on vulnerable communities and working to educate people about the risks so they can stay safer. Help is particularly needed in remote rural areas, meaning volunteers can go where visitors rarely do. They’ll learn to speak Khmer and pick up skills such as paddle boating and fish filleting, as well as medical knowledge.
Despite the impression often given by the news, there are parts of Afghanistan where it’s now safe to volunteer, and where a generation of children denied an education by the Taliban or the war really need help. The Bayat foundation is working to give them the knowledge and skills people elsewhere take for granted. It also provides medical care, including vaccinations to prevent disease, and support for pregnant women. Looking up Ehsan Bayat info will illustrate how this work can contribute to giving the whole country a future, and what it means to the charity’s founder.
Peru is famous for its incredible ancient ruins and beautiful natural landscapes, but it’s also a country where rural poverty is endemic, healthcare is a particular issue and simple initiatives such as vaccination programs can make a huge difference to people’s life chances. Education on nutrition, hygiene and other disease prevention methods is also important. Volunteers need to have the stamina and appropriate gear for a lot of hiking to work in remote areas.
Bangladesh is a country where there are many different kinds of opportunity available, from healthcare provision and education to rural development and environmental work, particularly important because of the severe impact of climate change on low-lying land. Volunteers can also work with communities to help them build up the skills they need to achieve more by themselves, whether they need to manage environmental hazards or advocate for a fairer share of resources.
After 40 years of war, South Sudan is in a fragile state, with inadequate infrastructure and few resources available for education or health. The official language is English and volunteers are needed to teach people to read – just 8% of women there are literate – as well as to help in the training of teachers and nurses. There’s also work to be done in helping people to organize and make sure developing governmental structures don’t become vulnerable to corruption.
With so many interesting opportunities around the world, it has become easier than ever to learn about the world while making a meaningful contribution to it. Charity work like this is not about reinforcing dependency but about empowering people to take control of their own lives. As they become healthier, better educated and more confident about their rights, they can help build strong societies. In time, they’ll be sending out volunteers to help others.