Ways to make a difference with community work abroad

There are loads of options for volunteering overseas, but I reckon working with local communities has to be among the most rewarding. There are just so many ways to help, and you’ll know that what you’re doing will make a real difference to their future. To get a few ideas of the kinds of things you can do (and where), read on.

Work with children

Working with underprivileged children has a real appeal – after all, they’re often the worst affected by adversity, and the least able to protect themselves. While teaching might be the most obvious way to help, it’s not the only route to go down. For example, you can:

• Carry out community work in Jaipur. This may be a beautiful place, but it is blighted with chronic poverty. You can get stuck in at a local community centre and work on a project with a broad focus, aiming to improve everything from health levels to education. As well as playing games with the children, encouraging sports and assisting at mealtimes, you can pitch in with the general maintenance of the centre – something that makes the environment more pleasant for everyone.

Sports programmes

These can be a really interesting way of helping out local communities. Some projects are simply designed to give people a chance to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to, while others are about empowering people through sport:

• Surfing with disadvantaged children in South Africa. This falls into the former category, giving kids who can’t afford to surf the chance to do so. Don’t panic if you can’t actually surf yourself; you’ll be taught while you’re there, and then you can teach others.

• Sports development in Swaziland. This definitely comes under the bracket of empowering people through sport. Swaziland is badly affected by HIV/AIDS and many children here have their families shattered by it. As a result, they turn to crime. This kind of project helps steer them back on the right path and inspire them to achieve through all kinds of sports. You’ll help with things like training and organising mini competitions for young people to take part in.

Building work

Volunteering with local communities needn’t mean teaching in some form (though that’s certainly a popular choice). If you want to get your hands dirty and get really involved in the local community, building work’s an incredible choice – especially as you know the what you help construct is desperately needed.

• Build homes for Costa Rican families. Helping to build someone’s home is immensely rewarding, and if you head to Costa Rica, you can work closely with families to give them a new place to live. Lots of the housing here just isn’t good enough in terms of sanitation and weather proofing, so the work you do will seriously help to improve the quality of life of people who need it most. You can work on all kinds of things, such as digging trenches, mixing cement, preparing foundations.

• Renovate schools in Nepal. Homes aren’t the only option for building work. Travel to Nepal and you can assist with vital projects in schools, from helping to improve existing rooms to building new ones and gardening. You’ll be taught any skills you need to know, but bear in mind this is pretty tough physical labour – especially since there aren’t any handy machines like cement mixers to use!

These are just some of the ways you can help local communities while you’re travelling. Have you got any stories of your own time spent volunteering overseas?

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