If you’re looking for volunteering opportunities, we’ve rounded up a list of organisations where your time and skills can make a significant impact.
In the United Nations Volunteers “2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report“, you can see how sustainable volunteering can be an influential and critical pillar to the roadmaps of developing communities. Volunteering allows people from different backgrounds to come together, enabling opportunities and connecting communities with a support system. As “a critical resource for community resilience,” looking at how we can best make a consistent positive impact is a great place to start. If you’re already an active volunteer in Hong Kong’s community, and you’re looking to extend your time and talent overseas, we’re here to help you on your mission.
What to consider
The number of tourists volunteering overseas has grown. People often seek a travel experience with meaning and purpose. However, while good intentioned, this trend may cause more damage than good. Demand for these opportunities can cause ineffective volunteer work that is centred around the volunteer experience rather than the cause. It may also perpetuate corruption within organisations wanting to sustain the flow of money that volunteers bring in or donate. Before you decide to volunteer overseas, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Volunteer options are endless, so to ensure you are picking an ethical organisation, it’s vital to do your research first. By ensuring the organisations you are interested in are accredited as a local or global charity/non-profit, you can guarantee funds and efforts are going to the cause at hand. If it’s a larger organisation, it’s worth considering how it’s run and how funds are distributed. If it’s a smaller organisation, it’s worth considering how your time and talents can be made sustainable when you’re no longer there. Either way, it is important to reach out to the founders or team members to understand a little more about the day to day running, the core aims, and the plans to scale.
- Consider your skills and look for opportunities that will benefit communities at the highest level. Are you a teacher, engineer, web developer? Are you passionate about arts and crafts, sports, music? Applying existing skills is the best way to add value.
- Make sure organisations have vetting processes for volunteers as well. It is a good sign when they want to place you where your skills are needed and check your credentials and background.
- What is your time commitment? Realistically, it’s very hard to make a sustainable long-term impact when you “visit” somewhere for less than 2 months. Unless you know you are building a long term foundation, where you commit to coming back every year for 3-5 years, it’s important to consider how much value your time will bring.
Check out our list of opportunities around Asia with some impactful organisations supporting child & family causes, conservation & environmental efforts, overarching volunteer platforms, plus professional & virtual opportunities to help you support from afar.
Support child and family causes
When searching for child and family causes, research and vetting is incredibly important in order to be sure you are not contributing to orphan tourism. Children without families are vulnerable to trafficking, child labour, abuse, violence, exposure to predators, and emotional and developmental trauma caused by growing up in these institutions. Not only are they vulnerable to these circumstances but children may feel emotional loss from the series of volunteers coming and going, causing a sense of abandonment, lifelong trauma and developmental delays.
Unethical orphanages recruit and even pay parents to give their children away, or “rent children” for a short period of time. Orphanages or organisations who solicit tourists and/or volunteers have been known to keep children in poor quality conditions. This is to ensure visitors remain sensitive to the issue in order to maintain consistent donations and visits. In many cases you cannot be certain funds are going directly to the children.
You want to work with organisations that strive to keep families together by enabling education and community support. By helping community-based programmes, you allow children to live at home with their families. Offering your knowledge and skills to social workers or permanent staff has the power to affect a larger group of children as opposed to just one child. This also keeps the locals in charge and minimises attachment issues.
Save the Children
This organisation is supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It advocates and has accomplished great results in regard to education, protection against violence, exploitation, and abuse. It offers supporting programs that improve the quality and availability of health services, and has aided and responded to humanitarian emergencies around the globe.
Friends International focuses on marginalised children and youth, and aims to reach the highest social return through its Friends Programmes modelled by the ChildSafe Network and the ChildSafe Alliance. It also aims to help children secure a future safe from abuse while providing opportunities for them to become functional members of their communities and countries.
This network provides volunteers with opportunities that have the best interest of the local communities and children in mind by ensuring there is minimal interference from volunteer work. ChildSafe Network does not support working with children directly in orphanages, homes or schools, however, they do provide interested candidates with vetted organisations and tips on how to volunteer responsibly and ethically. There are opportunities and organisations promoted by the ChildSafe Network all around Asia, including in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
This organisation provides volunteers with the opportunity to use their skills. They actively search for individuals who specialise in video production, public relations, computer programming, or food service. The focus is to ensure child wellbeing, education, and community development.
Plan International focuses on empowering children and young people in their communities by advocating for children’s rights and equality for girls. It drives change at policy levels, and works to prepare children and communities to respond to crises. Education, health, habitat, livelihood, and relationships are pillars of the work. Additionally it carries out disaster response, child protection, and child centred community development programmes.
Cambodia Children’s Fund
Cambodia Children’s Fund does not accept short term volunteers, requiring volunteers to commit to at least 3 months of service. It looks for candidates with specific skills to empower and collaborate with its staff. It focuses on delivering education, family support and community development programmes in Cambodia’s most impoverished communities.
Habitat For Humanity
Habitat for Humanity works to alleviate housing issues around the world, including rebuilding areas that have been affected by natural disasters. It also provides housing financing, weather proofing, disaster risk reduction and preparedness, technical training, and environmentally sustainable and low-cost construction technologies, and water and sanitation projects. Volunteers can participate in building projects, as well as, take on leadership roles, long term volunteer programmes, and participate in non-build duties.
Open Mind Projects
This organisation empowers underprivileged youth through the education of technology in order to prepare them for future life success. Training centres, learning camps, and field projects are a few ways in which it promotes learning. Open Mind Projects is not only dedicated to the personal development of the trainees and staff, but also to the volunteers.
ChildFund International helps vulnerable and disadvantaged children by improving their lives through health care, education, and opportunity for employment – ultimately positively affecting their communities. ChildFund offers vulnerable children protection and stability in order to help them reach their full potential as they develop into adults.
Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children
FIMRC is a self-sustainable health improvement programme focused on the underserved developing countries of our world. Through its initiatives such as clinical services, community outreach, and health education, the foundation aims to engage volunteers in order to fund project sites around the world. There are many ways to get involved, including participating in the Global Health Volunteer programme. The opportunities in Asia have a specific focus on the Philippines or India.
Support conservation and environmental efforts
This list includes cultural, natural, environmental, and animal conservation volunteer opportunities around the globe.
Volunteers at UNESCO have an enriching exploration experience whilst actively working to preserve the natural and cultural sites of our planet. Volunteers will raise awareness of the heritage of these sites to the local community, ultimately aiding in deep rooted preservation at the source. We love these opportunities in Asia: Angkor, Cambodia; Nature’s Paradise, India; Prambanan Temple Compounds, Indonesia.
Her Planet Earth
Get involved with Her Planet Earth, an organisation that is empowering women for a healthier planet. The organisation raises funds through a series of campaigns for programmes dedicated to the empowerment and education of underprivileged and marginalised women. This allows women to be a part of environmental conservation efforts, improving their adaptability to the effects of climate change. Sign up for an expedition or get in touch to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged women affected by climate change.
Greenpeace’s mission is to advocate for change by challenging the most destructive industries on our planet and helping people connect to nature. Greenpeace offers volunteer opportunities within local offices around the globe, where you have the opportunity to do everything from making signs to organising marches and participating in other forms of activism. To find out more, get in touch with your local Greenpeace office.
Friends of the Earth International
Friends of the Earth is a wide-reaching grassroots environmental network focusing on the environmental and social issues currently threatening our planet and humanity. This organisation supports and advocates for forests and biodiversity, human rights, climate justice, and sustainability. Check opportunities in Hong Kong here and internationally here.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a worldwide environmental non-profit working to conserve nature, with a focus on climate change, the protection and conservation of land and water, food and water security, sustainable practices, and building green cities. It is highly accredited largely because it has made conservation advances in 72 countries around the world.
Support overarching volunteer platforms
These organisations encompass a wide range of avenues to get involved with, supporting a range of wildlife and environmental conservation, children and family rights, safety and welfare, community and social development and peace.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
UN Volunteers are engaged in humanitarian, peace and development initiatives aiming to strengthen local communities and enable long-term change. To apply to these highly sought out and coveted opportunities apply here.
This organisation aims to combine travel and exploration with selected social, health, and developmental programmes. The organisation works with carefully vetted grassroots organisations, ensuring travellers are making a positive impact in the local communities they visit, while exposing them to a deeper understanding through face to face interaction.
Globalteer is a charity organisation which aims to support projects that will create sustainable change and development in the local communities they work with. 100% of charity funds are dedicated to their objectives which are improving conditions of life in disadvantaged communities, providing protection, treatment and security for wildlife, promoting ethical humane behaviour towards animals, and marine and biodiversity conservation. Volunteers are placed according to their skills, with the intention that they can transfer knowledge to local staff. Globalteer offers options for professionals as well.
GVI runs ethical volunteer programs which have earned them recognition with organisations such as Save the Children and ChildSafe. The initiatives vary from marine and wildlife conservation to working with children, teaching and community development. GVI also offers large scale opportunities for professionals through their employee engagement programmes.
International Voluntary Service
The International Voluntary Service is a peace organisation and is recognised by the UN as the UK’s oldest International Volunteering Organisation. The organisation focuses on local communities around the world by working towards sustainable development. Check out the opportunities in Thailand teaching English here and here.
Projects Abroad offers opportunities for people who are professionals, taking a career break or older retirees. Check out its projects here. The goal is to harness the expertise of volunteers and apply them to the needs of local communities for the best of the local people. It places great importance in matching volunteers where their experience will have the greatest impact.
Professional and virtual opportunities
These opportunities encompass placement with organisations with needs according to your skillset or professional background. If you do not have time to explore long or short-term volunteer work away from home, virtual opportunities are an excellent route to take and give back.
UNV Online Volunteering
Online volunteering with The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme allows organisations and volunteers to work on a range of challenges around the globe through applying skills such as teaching, writing and editing, technological development, and art and design. INV believes that “online volunteering is fast, easy – and most of all, effective. When skilled, passionate individuals join forces online with great organisations working toward sustainable development goals, everyone wins.”
Taproot Foundation aims to provide non-profit organisations with aspects of business that may not be readily available. The non-profits they serve may face issues like limited staff, budget constraints, or lack of growth structure framework. Taproot then connects these nonprofits to volunteers. These virtual opportunities allow volunteers to work on meaningful projects from anywhere in the world (projects can include anything from social media strategy, employee handbook development to business plan creation, financial analysis, and technology assessments). This foundation offers live sessions, workshops, events, and consulting services where organisations and volunteers can connect to address challenges together.
Professionals Doing Good
Professionals Doing Good aims to match professional volunteers with opportunities that will ensure their efforts will be maximised, advocating long-term sustainable change. This organisation focuses on the development challenges of Cambodia, providing opportunities in education, environment, water, agriculture, health, economic development, animal care, and children, as well as virtual opportunities.
Start a fundraising campaign or event
If you don’t have the time to volunteer right now, why not start a fundraising campaign to raise money for an organisation in need. Here are our fundraising platform recommendations: Network For Good, My Grow Fund, Malala, and Simply Giving. Global Giving is also a great resource to maximise your efforts as it is the largest global crowdfunding community connecting nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country. They also provide tools, training, and support to be more effective with your campaign.
Featured image courtesy of Larm Rmah via Unsplash, image 1 courtesy of Perry Grone via Unsplash, image 2 courtesy of Abigail Keenan via Unsplash, image 3 courtesy of Save the Children via Facebook, image 4 courtesy of Children’s Future via Instagram, image 5 courtesy of Habitat For Humanity via Instagram, image 6 courtesy of Alto Crew via Unsplash, image 7 courtesy of Friends of the Earth International via Facebook, image 8 courtesy of Yannis A via Unsplash, image 9 courtesy of GVI via Instagram, image 10 courtesy of Mimi Thian via Unsplash, image 11 courtesy of Kat Yukawa via Unsplash