We’ve looked already at getting jobs teaching English in both Asia and Europe for pay, but what if you are looking for a volunteer opportunity? Reliable information on this topic can be hard to come by, so I asked four different bloggers who have done it themselves to share their best tips on how to go about getting a gig teaching English as a volunteer around the world, how to prepare and what to expect in return.
Teaching English as a volunteer in Ecuador had two significant repercussions: firstly, the role itself had been set up differently to a paid position, and secondly, I was doing it for love, not money. For those wishing to teach voluntarily abroad, I would recommend the following:
- commit to a significant period of time. It took me until my third month to feel properly settled and comfortable in my teaching role.
- make the effort to learn some of the language you’ll be teaching in. When I first arrived, my Spanish-speaking students exulted in the fact that I didn’t knew barely any Spanish, but once I learnt a few key phrases they started actually listening to me.
- look for projects in cities/countries with an expat or western community, as there’s a likelihood there will be volunteer organisations already set up that you can work with. Alternatively, if you’re staying somewhere for a long period of time, simply enquire at local schools if they’d appreciate a fluent English speaking volunteer teacher. Amazingly it works very well!
Flora’s most recent teaching position was in 2013, for four months at a public high school in Cuenca, Ecuador with students ranging in age from 12-16. She has also taught for shorter periods; a month at a primary school in Kathmandu, Nepal, and a few weeks at a Thai village school. Currently she’s based in Medellín, Colombia, where she’s working as a journalist, but will soon be returning to the UK (by way of a month in Cuba) to start a Masters degree in Creative Writing. Check out her blog, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
When I was looking for a volunteer placement overseas, I was shocked by the prices many of the larger profit-oriented organisations were charging. It seemed to me that the money would be better spent on the actual projects and those in need. That’s why, when I stumbled across Hostel Hoff in Moshi, Tanzania, I didn’t hesitate to sign myself up.
Hostel Hoff was set up by an Irish girl who had originally gone to Tanzania with one of the larger volunteer organisations. When she realised how many sectors of the community could benefit from an extra pair of hands, she purchased a building, turned it into a hostel and set about forming links with schools, orphanages, hospitals, vocational training centres, women’s groups and community development projects. Your fees pay for accommodation and a percentage goes towards the charity Path to Africa, but there is no cost for volunteering.
You will need to obtain a Class C Volunteer/Resident visa and decide on which project suits you best. The longer you can stay the better, as you will form stronger bonds within the community. Moshi has so much to offer and you will probably want to incorporate time off to climb Kilimanjaro, go on safari or visit an authentic Masai tribe. While Africa in general does not have the best reputation for safety, during daylight hours, you can walk freely to and from your placement, interacting with locals and feeling like a minor celebrity as they identify you as a ‘Mzungu’, or foreigner.
If you volunteer at one of the schools, you will probably be doing a mixture of teaching assistance and your own lessons. It is equally rewarding watching the children grow in confidence and finally master something they’ve been struggling with as it is to share your knowledge with the local teachers. Whichever project you choose, try to ensure you have some experience beforehand or you might be more of a hindrance than a positive addition to the community. The more you get involved, the more rewarded you will be.
Arianwen is the author of Beyond Blighty, a travel blog focusing on independent travel and adventure activities. Her love of solo travel was sparked by a one-month volunteering placement in Tanzania. Since then, she has travelled throughout South America, New Zealand and Australia and will soon be heading to Mexico for her next adventure. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
I volunteered with Vaughantown, a program based out of Madrid. They accept week-long volunteers to work with Spaniards in their programs to help them better their English. To participate, one simply applies online. Once accepted, the program lasts just under a week and takes both teachers and students out of town to a hotel where they work with each other most of the day.
Lodging and meals (including wine) are given in exchange for the volunteers time for teaching. There are no visa issues for westerners, just bare in mind that most people from US and Canada traveling on those passports (and others, do your due diligence regarding visas) can only stay in the Schengen Zone for 90 out of 180 days. To participate in this program, you need to be comfortable interacting in one-on-one and group settings and conversing.
Diana Edelman is a travel writer and the person behind d travels ’round. She currently resides in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Diana is co-founder of #RTTC, a chat that takes place every Wednesday at 6 p.m. GMT on Twitter which focuses on responsible tourism. She’s a solo traveler and career-breaker and has traveled extensively. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
When Karen and I travelled for 18 months, one of the things we really wanted to do was volunteer some of our time to the communities we were visiting.
Unfortunately, if you google “volunteering abroad” your search results will mostly be of the agencies that charge thousands of dollars for you to volunteer with them. Thousands of dollars, that most backpackers don’t have.
We found it really hard to find any placements, but after a lot of digging we managed to volunteer in Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. In Thailand we taught English in a remote school for over a month and it was one of the highlights of our travels.
You can go to globalhelpswap.com to find volunteering opportunities in Thailand. Apply well in advance. Many organizations are in remote areas and they will have poor internet connections. So give them time to reply.
Ask as many questions as possible. The more information you have before you arrive the better. Ask questions like:
- Does the organization expect a donation or payment?
- Will it include a room and if so is it private or shared?
- Will the bathrooms be shared?
- Will meals be provided? If so what type of food?
- How many hours will you be volunteering a day?
- Will there be time off?
- What qualifications will you need to volunteer?
- Do you need a visa?
- Will they pick you up from the nearby airport/train station/bus station?
Our first volunteering experience in Malaysia was a nightmare because we did not ask enough questions. Please don’t make the same mistake!
Volunteering in the correct way will be the highlight of your travels. You will get to live like a local with locals, which for us was an amazing experience.
Paul & Karen are a couple in their 30′s with a BIG passion for travel. After crossing Europe & Asia without using planes they set up globalhelpswap.com to share tips on memorable & meaningful travel. They also promote free volunteering opportunities around the world. When they are not travelling, you will find them deep in a good book with a bottle of red close by. You can also say hi on Facebook and Twitter!