Volunteer in Africa

Volunteer Ruth Curran reflects on sharing her experiences as a volunteer in Africa with her friends and family at home, and how difficult it can be to do justice to the depth of those experiences.

As A Volunteer in Africa

After serving as a Global Volunteer in Africa, Ruth writes about how to tell that story. She’s hesitant because she fears people may be uncomfortable with some of her experiences, and in disbelief about others. When thinking of the promise she saw in Tanzania, she writes:

“I bet, however, that you will write that all that off as idealism or the romance of the moment in hindsight or the view from the other side of my rose colored glasses or the perspective from my glass overflowing take on life. I know that. I appreciate that. I respect that position.”

She says of Tanzanians with whom she worked:

“These people allowed me to think in ways that I did not even know I could. I came out not just changed by the experience this time but a better thinker – a multidimensional thinker – because of these three and a half weeks.” 

Volunteer in Africa

Ruth serving women tea at a Reaching Children’s Potential Workshop

Ruth is an author, writer, and speaker who first came in contact with Michele Gran, Global Volunteers’ co-founder and CEO, when she was doing research for a book about brain health and the brain benefits of travel and living a purposeful life. Ruth is a Master of Science with more than 28 years of experience as a business development executive, strategist, and organizational behaviorist. After learning about Global Volunteers through her research, she served as a volunteer in the Caribbean (St. Lucia) in 2015. She joined the Reaching Children’s Potential Advisory Committee that same year. Since then, Ruth has served as a volunteer in Africa (Tanzania) on two service programs and is registered for a third in Tanzania in July 2018. Due to her commitment to Global Volunteers’ work around the world, in 2017 Ruth joined the Global Volunteers staff team as our Director of Partnerships and Collaborations, managing our educational and institutional partnerships.

Her blog post explores her day-to-day experiences in Ipalamwa, Tanzania as a volunteer in Africa and how she finds it so difficult to capture the feelings and wonderment she experienced while there.

“I don’t believe I even know how to tell you about how a magnificent 13-year-old young woman who, without even realizing, gracefully shined a light in the darkness and changed the tone – created a moment of safety and sanity in a world that held neither – for another young girl whose life, experience, and existence held so little hope.”

Volunteer in Africa

Ruth watching the sunset in Tanzania


Read the original blog post: If You Ask Me About My Trip to Africa…

Volunteer Travel in the Caribbean with Global Volunteers

In November 2017, Louise Kelly decided to take a trip to the Caribbean, but not for the crystal-blue bays or soft sand beaches. Louise was craving something different, something more. She wanted to meet, learn from, work with, and develop friendships with the local people. Louise chose volunteer travel in the Caribbean.

Read on for Louise’s journal entry from her last day of service in Anse la Raye, St. Lucia as well as what she does and how she feels after returning home…

In St. Lucia: Dated 14 November, 2017

Message: “What I believe, but cannot prove; has meaning for me. Letting go of the parts of life that no longer serve me; is my journey/pilgrimage.”

My reason for coming to St Lucia was simply to serve. I came without great expectations, except to learn what I could and to teach what I know.

I had never been to this part of the world. I’ve been involved with helping people all my life. When I retired, I indicated to my leaders that I wanted to serve in yet another capacity. This invitation from Global Volunteers, found on my FB page, was an answer to prayer and seemed a perfect fit.

Volunteer Travel in the Caribbean - Home away from home

Louise’s temporary island home in St. Lucia

I’ve always thought people around the world are more the same than different. Traveling has proven this fact over the years but, never more so than now, in St. Lucia on my final day of volunteering.

To describe this experience in a few lines and within the deadline provided feels artificial. Yet I must.

I’ve just spent two weeks in the development center which neither had a flushing toilet nor the associated necessities like toilet paper. The school is without air conditioning, in the intense heat and associated high humidity. The school is without fans of any sort. One day the children’s toilet flooded and I watched the teacher mop the floors without a complaint. When I asked what happened, she explained wearing her usual smile. The consequence of a flooding toilet was no water for the next day.

But while these issues are serious conditions, they seem of little importance to the children of St. Lucia who continued to sing, learn their letters, and play their games.

Volunteer Travel in the Caribbean - Work with children

Sweet, sweet children!

I leave St. Lucia with a heart filled with memories of the village, it’s school, and the children served. The people are loving and giving and they speak to the goodness in our world.  When I return to the comforts of my home I carry the love I experienced here.

.

Back home: Dated 23 November, 2017, Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving. Had not wanted to attend festivities. Still feel tearful when thinking/talking of my experience. Yet friends are curious about my experience. Their first question. “How can we help?” What immediately comes to mind. “Soil for earthbox project.” Their response. “We are in.”

People agree to donate so that I can help out “mommies and daddies” in St. Lucia.

People are bringing me checks. I am humbled.

How you can help…

Follow in Louise’s footsteps and choose volunteer travel in the Caribbean. Global Volunteer in St. Lucia. Chat online with a Volunteer Coordinator to get started.

Or, donate to help the children and families in St. Lucia. Your donation is greatly appreciated.

Chat online about volunteering abroad

Take a chance

In an interview with Matt Mayes, Florida-based videographer, Global Volunteers Team Leader Cindy Murray talks about her experiences volunteering and leading teams. Her advice, take a chance and volunteer. 

Background: Cindy served on her first Global Volunteers service program in 1997 in Mississippi. She trained to become a Volunteer Team Leader and has led teams in Florida, Minnesota, Montana, West Virginia, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Poland. She holds a BA in Theater and Drama and a dual Master’s Degree in Human Resources and Development.

How did you first hear about Global Volunteers?

Back in 1997, I saw a little blurb in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. A guest speaker was presenting at the Orlando Public Library, a topic about volunteering and travel – two topics I love – and I signed up and attended a session by Bud Philbrook, one of the co-founders of Global Volunteers. They co-founders are pretty amazing people.”

What did you learn about Global Volunteers that impressed you the most?

I learned about how when Global Volunteers goes into communities, they work at the direction of the local community. That was very appealing to me. One of the other things that I really like about the organization is that it’s not aligned with any particular religion – it’s open to anyone who has that passion for service.

Take a chance

Cindy with one of her volunteer teams in Montana

 

What advice would you give to someone who has heard about Global Volunteers and is possibly considering volunteering on a program?

I would say, take a chance. Take a chance on getting out of your comfort zone. Getting into a community that maybe you’ve never been to before, maybe a country that you’ve had a desire to visit. But take a chance on experiencing it from a different vantage point than a tourist or a regular visitor. Get yourself immersed in a community.

Take a chance on getting out of your comfort zone.
Take a chance on experiencing it from a different vantage point than a tourist or a regular visitor. Get yourself immersed in a community.   

How many trips have you taken with Global Volunteers?

I’ve taken twenty trips with Global Volunteers, ranging from south Florida where we worked with migrant workers to southwestern Minnesota where we worked alongside meatpackers from countries all over the world.

Take a chance

Cindy, Ramón, and Linda experiencing Cuban music very directly

How is a Global Volunteer received in the community in which they volunteer?

As a Global Volunteer, we are very fortunate because the Global Volunteers organization has built relationships with local communities long before I show up as a volunteer. So when you do show up, you’re a link in a long chain of volunteers. We’re well received, we’re recognized as Global Volunteers, the people in those local communities are warm and welcoming and we, in a small way, become part of a family and a community, in a short amount of time.

Global Volunteers has built relationships with local communities long before I show up as a volunteer.

The people in those local communities are warm and welcoming and we, in a small way, become part of a family and a community, in a short amount of time.

Do you feel like you are doing some good?

Absolutely. The Global Volunteers experiences are about connecting with people, which is so important in our current world. Connecting, laughing. Sometimes we don’t even speak the same language, but through music, singing, laughter, you find common bonds.

The Global Volunteers experiences are about connecting with people, which is so important in our current world.

Take a chance

Cindy with Pedro in Cuba

Tell me about your teams.

I have had the privilege of having some fantastic teams.  I’ve had some wonderful teams out on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. We volunteer out there in the summers and thus, we often get families because children are out of school typically. So we get the dynamic of grandmothers with grandchildren coming to volunteer alongside grandmothers with grandchildren from the Indian reservation. Great mixes of people. I love seeing children on these programs. That’s the time to instill this experience and these values of sharing and connecting with other people.

Is there anything you’d like to add, Cindy?

For people considering Global Volunteers, take the chance. Do it. Step away from routine. Unplug, as we might say. Allow yourself to connect with real people in real time, away from computers, away from laptops. And just enjoy being human with other people.

Take A Chance.

Take a chance
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best volunteer vacations

A four-time volunteer tells why Global Volunteers programs are the best volunteer vacations available. In an interview with Matt Mayes, a Florida-based videographer, Lynn describes her experience looking for, and finding, meaningful travel.

Matt: You were searching for the best volunteer vacation. How did you learn about Global Volunteers?

Lynn: About three years ago, I was looking towards retirement and always had a passion for travel. We’ve traveled extensively with various groups, but I was looking for a different experience. A friend of mine gave me a book on the best volunteer vacations. I went through it, got some ideas, and then I proceeded to do some research on the web.

After pretty extensive research and comparing pricing and experiences, I emailed Global Volunteers and a few other organizations. I asked them if I could have some emails of some people that had participated with them so I could get some first-hand information. Global Volunteers, far and above the others that I had contacted, had the best reviews. People had the best experiences. Global Volunteers, hands down, seemed to offer the best volunteer vacations. When somebody tells you, I’ve traveled with this organization on nine different trips, or I’ve gone back to the same place six times, there must be something good going on there. So that’s what prompted me to try one of their trips.

Actually, I’d thought I’d try one prior to retirement just to see if this was something I wanted to do as part of my long-term goals. I looked through the countries that they went to and noticed that they had a program in Crete, Greece. That really struck a note because my father was born on the island of Crete. That made it even more enticing. The interesting thing was I had been to Greece several times before, and Crete, with my family on vacations. But I can tell you the Global Volunteers experience was completely different.

Matt: Tell us a little about yourself prior to retirement.

Lynn: I had a long and very successful career as part of the Times Publishing Company working for a monthly business magazine. They own Florida Trend. I had various positions over the years in sales, sales management, and the last eight or nine years I was there I oversaw the entire sales effort.

Matt: When you started your research, how did you conclude that Global Volunteers offered the best volunteer vacations?

The thing that impressed me was that Global Volunteers had longevity. They had been in business since the 1980s, and had expanded the programs and added countries. Everyone I talked to had nothing but good things to say. I didn’t hear, truthfully, one negative experience. Global Volunteers has a tremendous amount of repeat business and to me, having been in business myself my whole life, that’s key. If people are coming back, they must be happy. And also, of course, pricing and cost. The fact that it’s tax-deductible. I believe that for the two weeks, it’s a very good value. Even though you pay your own airfare, it includes three meals a day. You are taken out often. They give you many suggestions about what to do in your free time.

“I believe that all those things make Global Volunteers’ service programs the best volunteer vacations available.” 

The interesting thing is when you go out in the community, even if you’re by yourself, and you have a cup of coffee somewhere and perhaps the proprietor will ask if you’re on vacation, because that’s mostly what people are, and you say, well, not really, I’m helping volunteer. They look at you in a whole different light.

Best Volunteer Vacations

Alice and Lynn conversing in Crete, Greece

Matt: What do you most like about the leadership at Global Volunteers?

Lynn: The leadership at Global Volunteers is very authentic, and when I say that, they are very open about everything. You can go on the website and see their financials. You can see what portion of your money is actually going towards the program. It’s a tremendous amount. They run a very lean operation. And I know this because when it was their 30th anniversary, they had a gala in Minnesota at their headquarters. I think if I am going to be involved with this organization and take several trips with them, I want to see how they operate. So I went and Michele, the vice president of Global Volunteers, was nice enough to show me around. Their office is literally a home reconstructed to office space with a few employees and volunteers. And I was impressed again with that.

When I went to the anniversary party, the people who were attending were people who had participated in Global Volunteers programs, which was great because I had the opportunity to meet people who had volunteered six, seven, eight times. One woman has gone to Poland for something like ten years. And I said to her, “You go every summer for three weeks for ten years? Why haven’t you tried other countries?” And she replied, “I know the kids, I’ve watched them grow up, I love it.” I think that speaks to the way they run the operation. And for me, it was important to find that out before deciding on the best volunteer vacations.

Matt: What would you say to someone who is thinking about it, sitting on the fence post, has some reservations because it’s a dangerous world out there..?

The countries where Global Volunteers operates, for the most part, don’t offer any threats to Americans. Global Volunteers’ policy is not to travel to any countries with travel warnings for U.S. citizens. And Global Volunteers is very cautious. The country managers who lead your teams are very cautious, and give you recommendations about everything so that you stay safe. If you are going to go on a walk on a rough road, they’ll tell you might want to wear good sneakers, for example. They are very cautious and are very thoughtful of where you are and what the circumstances are. They’ll say, this is a safe place to walk around at night, or, you should maybe stay away from this neighborhood.  That’s the sign of a great volunteer vacation organization.

For the most part, the programs are in small communities, that remember, they’ve asked Global Volunteers to come in. So it’s not like you are intruding; they know that you’re there to help. So I have never felt uncomfortable or fearful on any trip of anything, and I’ve gone with groups, I’ve gone with a friend, and I’ve been by myself, and I’ve never had any issues.

“The country managers who lead your teams in country are very cautious and give you recommendations about everything so that you stay safe.”

best volunteer vacations

Volunteers Lynn and Peter painting in Cuba

Matt: So you recommend Global Volunteers to others?

Lynn: If you enjoy experiencing other cultures, and have a curiosity, and want a really authentic experience, Global Volunteers is the way to go because you will live with the local people. You’ll see the good, the bad, the ugly. You can ask them questions. They will be totally honest with you. You’ll never get that at a resort. Global Volunteers truly does offer the best volunteer vacations.

“You’ll never get that at a resort. Global Volunteers truly does offer the best volunteer vacations.”

Matt: What were your other team members like?

Lynn: It was an interesting mix and every time it’s a different group. When I went to Havana in January of 2017, there were 25 volunteers. The ages ranged from 30 years old, a woman who had just finished law school and wanted to take a little time off to do something fun. And an 85-year-old gentleman who was a retired mayor from a small community in Pennsylvania. And he was the most fascinating person I had ever met. I was so attached to him I wanted to talk to him every chance I had. His life was so amazing! And the fact that at 85 he was still traveling and curious. He had spent time in the Peace Corps and he was in Bangladesh. He had done several Global Volunteers programs, and it was his second or third one to Cuba with Global Volunteers.

“You meet fascinating people, retired teachers, retired professors, professionals, all different ages, the whole gambit. That’s the other thing – you make new friends.”

I have met so many fascinating people on my programs – retired teachers, nurses, professionals. The thing is that when you go on a program, you are meeting like-minded people – people who are curious, people who like to travel, people that you have a lot in common with. You compare notes.

“So it’s fun! It’s like a summer camp experience for adults. You’re with people that like the same things you do and have the same curiosities and are looking for the same cultural experiences.”

best volunteer vacations

Lynn and her teammates in Havana, Cuba

Matt: Do you feel like you are doing good in the world?

Lynn: It’s very rewarding when you come back to your home and a fourteen-year-old from a far-away island emails you and says, “Thank you so much! You are such an inspiration. It was such a pleasure to meet you. I feel lucky that we were able to spend time together.” That was four years ago and I still stay in touch with her. I have made friends that I feel like whenever I go back to Greece, I would connect with these people. And that, in and of itself is worth it.

——

Lynn is a three-time volunteer to Greece, and has volunteered on Global Volunteers’ Havana program as well. Next, she is thinking about volunteering in Poland or returning to Crete in what she describes as one of the “best volunteer vacations” available. 

More about Lynn and her experiences volunteering:

reverse culture shock

Volunteer Robert writes about his “reverse culture shock” upon returning home to Washington after volunteering at a secondary school in the the cloud forest region of Monteverde, Costa Rica for a week. Here’s his list of 20 things he had not expected! 

Reverse Culture Shock

Attention Global Volunteers Costa Rica Team #233:

There is a question on the exit survey that you fill out that asks: “Did your Global Volunteers experience change your life?” I naïvely answered “no” – please don’t repeat my mistake. Upon returning to the good ol’ USA, be prepared for the following changes:

  1. Sunny 56 degree winter weather now feels cold.
  2. Driving your own vehicle seems like so much effort.
  3. Sitting down to breakfast, you may find yourself waiting for hours for Anthony to bring you fresh juice, a delicious hot breakfast, and endless coffee refills.
  4. Longing for inspirational quotes to start your day.
  5. Wondering where you are and why are you there? Because our time volunteering in Costa Rica was filled with purpose.

    reverse culture shock

    Robert with Costa Rican students Jessica and Stacy

  6. Missing having someone recite yesterday’s activities to you (with more detail than you remembered).
  7. Eating meals without laughing and teasing your teammates.
  8. Desperately wishing you could walk only 5 minutes to work every day.
  9. Missing being surrounded by idealistic, curious, and eager minds.
  10. Still having communication challenges, but now in the same language.
    reverse culture shock

    Volunteers Bill and Robert talking with Costa Rican students

    And the Reverse Culture Shock Continues…

  11. Wondering how Tatiana manages to cook meals more delicious than the previous day.
  12. Expecting Anthony or Ernesto to answer your everyday questions.
  13. Finding yourself thinking “Pura Vida” in response to annoying everyday things that only now seem petty and inconsequential.
  14. Marvelling at all the room, modern conveniences, and luxury in your life.
  15. Sitting in the car, waiting for Ronny to drive you to your destination, and you not knowing or caring how to get there.

    reverse culture shock

    The team that turned the tire for planting!

  16. Seeing cats and squirrels and wishing for headlight click beetles and sloths.
  17. Adjusting to regular driving, not on rustic Costa Rican roads, without views of the beautiful verdant mountains of the cloud forest.
  18. No longer being creeped out by bugs, spiders, or rodents because the students at Colegio taught you to appreciate them.
  19. Working hard all day and getting paid for it.
  20. Working hard all day but wishing you were digging dirt, painting buckets, and/or teaching conversational English and not getting paid for it.

Some might call this reverse culture shock. I now see it as subtly changing lives.

Maggie, can you please change my response to the survey question?

reverse culture shock

Robert all dirty from working and very content in Costa Rica

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volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff started volunteering abroad after a personal loss. His journey of healing lead him to a new journey – as a Team Leader for Global Volunteers. This is Jeff’s story – about how volunteering abroad comforts the soul. 

Jeff admits his story is deeply personal. When he lost his wife to breast cancer, he also lost his sense of direction. Depression filled the void and he knew he had to regain his life’s purpose.  But how?  His compassionate employer recommended a sabbatical. But, Jeff knew that sitting around a pool wouldn’t give him the centering focus he needed.  He sought something more meaningful. So he started looking for an organization that would give him the opportunity to volunteer and work oversees.  He quickly found Global Volunteers online and selected a program teaching conversational English in Italy.  He surrendered himself to the experience, to the challenge, the culture and the gratitude of his students.  In this small southern Italian town, he felt the comfort his soul longed for.

“The experience was everything I had hoped for: rewarding, fulfilling…”

Fifteen years later Jeff yearned to recapture this feeling of optimism and possibility as a volunteer. Knowing Global Volunteers would enable him to keep doing this fulfilling and rewarding work, stay active and travel, he made a call to the organization immediately after he retired.  He was fully committed to throw himself into service programs worldwide. Becoming a volunteer team leader and helping other volunteers to experience the life-transforming experience he had was a strong motivation.  Jeff trained to become a Team Leader and has since led volunteer teams in Italy, Cuba, and Montana, and very soon – Vietnam.  He says he looks forward to every new journey with the same enthusiasm and hope as his first service program.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff volunteering with Italian students.

Why Global Volunteers?

Jeff chose Global Volunteers because it allows volunteers to serve abroad for a short period of time (1 to 3 weeks) and not having to commit for many months like other organizations. At the same time, Global Volunteers sends volunteers consistently, so it is not about what one volunteer can accomplish in a couple of weeks, but about the long chain of support volunteer teams provide to the host communities.

What do volunteers gain from a service program abroad?

Volunteers give up a lot, Jeff says: time with their families, time at work, time from regular vacations. But they gain a lot: friendships that they will never loose and the understanding that they have contributed to something of value to struggling communities in developing nations.

volunteering abroad comforts the soul

Jeff with a group of students in Italy.

Imagine all the people

Back in March Jeff was leading a team of 14 women in Cuba. When a local band started playing John Lennon’s Imagine, he realized his team was living just that:

“Living life in peace, sharing all the world, living as one.”

This was what Global Volunteer has been all about: Waging peace and promoting justice in the world.

You are special to me

That same team got to witness something special. On International Women’s day, people in Cuba would go out from their houses and hand flowers to the volunteers as they walked by. When the team arrived at the community garden where they were serving, one of the workers, Adriano, gave roses to the volunteers.

“He spoke a different language, but everyone knew what this meant: “You are special to me, you are important to me.”

Volunteering Abroad Comforts the Soul

A volunteer receives a flower from local Cuban worker.

Do you have what it takes?

Take a look at your skills, at the work you’ve done, and try to match up with the various projects Global Volunteers offers in 17 countries around the world. Your skills might fit a project most appropriately. Take advantage of that.

“You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one”

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family's volunteering abroad experience

On a previous post, Ken, a U.S. and international volunteer, explained why he’s dedicated much of his life to volunteering abroad. His wife Suzanne offers her take on the reasons behind her family’s volunteering abroad experience.

Why do you volunteer abroad?

I think it is really enriching to volunteer abroad. My husband is a geographer so he is excellent at planning.

Why does your family volunteer abroad?

We adopted two children interracially. We have 4 children. They love to travel internationally.  Every time we volunteer abroad they know we will have a good time.

“Volunteering abroad allows my children to see people in other cultures and conditions, how people live and make life choices. They had a lot of questions about that.”

family's volunteering abroad experience

Suzanne with one of the friends she made in Greece as a volunteer.

What is the value of your family’s volunteering abroad experience?

It teaches our children about volunteerism. When we have served abroad with our family and friends, the experience has changed and challenged them. For instance, it affected their views and goals in life, and so one of them became a doctor, another a nurse, and a third works with children as a social worker.

What else can you tell us about volunteering abroad?

The idea of volunteerism is something new to many people, even for the people whom we serve. I remember once a man in whose village we served came to us and told us:

“At first I thought you came to take our jobs. But then I learned that you don’t get pay to work.”

family's volunteering abroad experience

Ken and Suzanne with some of the friends they made volunteering abroad in Greece.

This man had a transformation about how he saw us Americans. He first saw us with distrust but then joined our work group, saw that you could have work without demanding pay, and wrote a poem he performed for the village, telling how he had come to value himself and what he could contribute to his community.  He valued his new friendship and understanding.

Learn how to volunteer abroad with your family!

Visit our Volunteer as a Family page to learn more about family volunteering opportunities worldwide, or request our family volunteering tip sheet with the form below.

Send me a family volunteering tip sheet.

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Why You Should Volunteer Abroad

Ken is one of those people who not only tries to live happily without harming anyone, but actually invests his time helping others. He has helped in his home city of Seattle building houses for low income families, teaching at a school for homeless children, and serving at the Board of his local Girl Scouts association. But Ken hasn’t settled there. He has taken his service to the next level and embraced wonderful life experiences that many people miss on. Ken’s story tells us one more reason why you should volunteer abroad.

It all started in the 60’s for Ken when he and his wife Suzanne tutored children at risk.  They then decided to join the Peace Corps and travel to Ghana. As Ken tells us:

“We felt there was even more need in other parts of the world than in our country. Even the poorest people in our country are in a much better situation than lots of people in other countries.”

After the Peace Corps, Ken and Suzanne continued doing volunteer work in the U.S. as they raised their family. But once the children were old enough, they started volunteering internationally again. Ken tells us one of the reasons:

“We have taken tourist trips to Europe and Africa. But they are not nearly as meaningful or rewarding as doing a combination of tourism and volunteering.”

Why You Should Volunteer Abroad

Suzanne and Ken volunteering in Greece next to their teammates.

During one of his volunteer trips, Ken and Suzanne met a woman who had served with Global Volunteers and recommended it as a reputable organization. Ken and Suzanne followed her advice and went on a service program to Cuba last year. They are currently serving in Greece and have already booked another service program for Romania in September.

So here comes the big question: why you should volunteer abroad?

“I think one of the main benefits of volunteering abroad is that it builds relationships: within the team you make friends; but most importantly, you make friends with the people from the country where you are serving.”

Why You Should Volunteer Abroad

Ken and Suzanne volunteering abroad in Greece.

So for Ken it is not just about the places you see, but also the people you meet, the friends you make, and the fruits of those relationsips:

“It is obvious that we are all interconnected. If we don’t help other countries, if don’t help other people then we are just going to have more international conflict. Volunteering abroad is a way we can participate, make friends, and reduce the chances of conflict.

“When you get to talk and work with the people, they get to know you better, and they get to know Americans and America better.”

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volunteer opportunities for experienced teachers

Experienced and retired teachers tell us frequently how much they enjoy engaging with new students and teachers in a new culture and in new classrooms on a service program abroad. One of the most fulfilling challenges our volunteers report is leveraging the skills they’ve honed over decades to benefit children who might have been exposed to only one style of instruction. To see eyes light up with recognition and curiosity is what every teacher craves.

And for retirees, getting back into the classroom with eager and appreciative students is exciting and stimulating beyond their expectations. Some have said they didn’t realize just how much they missed planning and teaching daily lessons until they had a class of their own again – on another continent or in a different time zone!

Global Volunteers offers teaching abroad opportunities to tutor students in basic classroom subjects including math, computer skills, geography, music, science, sports, agriculture, arts and crafts, reading and literacy, as well as opportunities to teach conversational English. You can support these efforts in a range of destinations, including the Cook Islands, Greece, Mexico, Montana, Peru, Poland, Tanzania and Vietnam.

Hundreds of experienced and retired teachers choose to volunteer with Global Volunteers every year. As a Global Volunteer, you can volunteer from one to three weeks and the all-inclusive (and tax-deductible) program fees mean your airport pick-up and drop-off, orientation, accommodation, meals and 24/7 in-country support are all taken care of. If you are looking to volunteer with a group of your teacher friends, contact us. Our group specialists are ready to help you get started.

To learn more about the available teaching abroad opportunities for experienced and retired teachers, browse the programs featured below.

Cook Islands Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms, Early Childhood Education, Tutoring Numeracy, Computer Literacy, Literacy and Math Testing
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to three weeks, programs start on select Sundays year-round
  • Program fees: From $2,695 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in the Cook Islands

Teacher volunteers in the Cook Islands have the opportunity to work with a range of ages, from toddlers to 4th graders to high school students. Working alongside and providing valued support to local teachers, you invest in the future through the youngest of citizens.

“My one-time curiosity has turned into 9 years of annual volunteer trips to Rarotonga. I return because I have a connection with the teachers at St Joseph’s Primary, to the shopkeepers, to the Global Volunteers who serve every year, but mostly I cherish my connection with the students, whom I taught in Grade 1 and now are vibrant Grade 6 students. It’s an honor and a privilege to be a part of their lives if only for three weeks a year.”

-Ellen (Global Volunteer in the Cook Islands)

Greece Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms, English Language Camps
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to two weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: From $2,795 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Greece

Thanks to our teacher volunteers in Crete, Greek youth, teenagers and adults have been given the opportunity to improve their English and expand their educational opportunities. Summer “language camps” are a fun and challenging service opportunity to work with students on English pronunciation and usage. Or, teach adults at the Union of Women Association of Heraklion in the spring and fall.

“The students are energetic young people who are eager to learn, and the parents deeply appreciate the volunteers giving time for their children. If I had to sum up why I’ve returned to Crete three times it would be the warm culture, friendships, beauty of the island and authenticity of the whole experience.”

-Lynn (Global Volunteer in Greece)

Mexico Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms, English Tutoring
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to two weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: $2,495 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Greece

Teachers serving in Mexico work at Universidad Tecnológica de Querétaro (UTEQ) – helping students with English conversation as well as tutoring. As a Mexico Global Volunteer, you also have the opportunity to enjoy cultural activities alongside students and community partners. Your chance to help wonderful students and explore a different culture is right across the border!

“These “vacations” have been the most rewarding of my life. I had been looking for a way to visit a foreign country and get beneath the surface, to meet people and be introduced to a new culture through their eyes… Classroom interaction is fun, and during our free time on weekends, we get to see the sights just like “regular” tourists, often in the company of our local Mexican friends. What could be better!”

-Tom (Global Volunteer in Mexico)

Montana Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Computer Literacy, Children’s Summer Programs
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one week, programs start on Saturdays May through September
  • Program fees: $1,045 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Montana

Our Montana program is on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation alongside Glacier National Park. If you have expertise in computer systems and/or programs, you can help students learn the basics and improve their computer literacy so they can successfully compete in college and job-seeking. Or, help supervise field trips, play and direct games, read story books, or teach a lesson on a topic of your choice at a tribally run summer day-camp for children five to 18.

“The volunteers bring their skills, insights, and helping hands to the reservation. But, most important, they bring friendship, curiosity, and compassion. We work together to close the gap of understanding between the Indian and White cultures, and it’s very good.”

-Bob Tail Feathers (Blackfeet American Indian)

Peru Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms, Early Childhood Education, Tutoring Numeracy
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to two weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: From $2,595 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Lima, Peru

Teacher volunteers in Lima play an important role in assisting local daycare workers, teachers and university professors. Stimulate children 1 to 5 years old through arts and crafts and reading storybooks; work one-on-one and in small groups on numeracy and math comprehension with students of all ages; or, at the university level, help students anchor their independence through conversational English practice and lesson reviews.

“If English is the language of opportunity, it’s our rare privilege to play a small supportive role in our students’ quest for graduate studies, professional employment, and success. We’re inspired by their motivation; our hearts are warmed by the graciousness of the students, staff, and faculty of La Molina.”

-Efy (Global Volunteer in Peru)

Poland Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms, English Language Camps
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to two weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: From $2,495 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities Poland

Teachers who enjoy working with children and teenagers are especially needed in Poland. Whether in a classroom setting or at a summer camp, the Polish youth are eager to learn from you. If you love beautiful landscapes as well as cross-cultural learning, look no further. Poland is the place for you.

It’s the great experiences I have with the Polish children and the Polish language camps staff that draw me back again and again. Working with and learning about the Polish people is a great delight in my life. Language camps are too much fun to miss!”

-Lori (Global Volunteer in Poland)

Tanzania Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English, Early Childhood Education, Tutoring Numeracy, Computer Literacy, Literacy and Math Testing, Classroom Teaching (Topics include: Math, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geography)
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to three weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: From $1,995 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Poland

Teacher volunteers in Tanzania provide support to local teachers in the rural community of Ipalamwa. Tutor children at the primary school. Teach secondary students math, biology, chemistry, physics and physical geography. This may be the most fun you ever have. Tanzanian village schools are not equipped with all the tools and equipment that can make education interesting in more developed countries. So volunteers utilize their professional experiences and creative imagination to bring these subjects to life.

“I was surprised by how appreciative and eager the students are to learn. Their respect for the teachers is something I’ve never before witnessed. I learned so much from them about their lives and the village. I have a great deal of respect for Tanzanians.”

-Jake (Global Volunteer in Tanzania)

Vietnam Teaching Volunteer Program

  • Community projects: Conversational English in Classrooms at a Primary School or a University, Conversational English to Visually Impaired Adults, Tutoring High- and Mid-Ranking Officials at a Research Institute
  • Program duration: Volunteer for one to two weeks, programs start on select Saturdays year-round
  • Program fees: From $2,495 for one week. Tax-deductible fees include food, accommodations, ground transportation, team leadership, project materials and program coordination.

Teaching Abroad Opportunities in Vietnam

In Vietnam, teacher volunteers work with a wide range of students – from college students to high ranking officials to visually impaired adults. Your service provides more opportunities for the students, and they greatly appreciate that. Once you see how much attention they pay during your classes, you’ll understand what we mean!

Teaching English in Vietnam was as wonderful as I had anticipated. Practicing pronunciation with blind students at Blind Link with each student assuming the role of a Massage Therapist speaking with a client was sheer joy. To provide help, enjoy the students and the assistants, and the process itself, is very rewarding.”

-Fran (Global Volunteer in Vietnam)

Additional Teaching Abroad Opportunities

In addition to the teaching abroad opportunities listed in the locations above, Global Volunteers also offers the opportunity to teach students of all ages in China, Costa Rica, Cuba, India, Italy, Portugal, Romania and St. Lucia. Gain a new perspective of these colorful countries by sharing your skills and knowledge!

Request a free e-catalog for more information about teaching abroad opportunities for experienced and retired teachers using the form below.

Get started! Request a free e-catalog.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.







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volunteer abroad in retirement

Choosing to volunteer abroad in retirement can be the most fulfilling decision you make! Unencumbered by work schedules, you can respond to needs worldwide and in the U.S. as they occur, and be assured that your contributions are appreciated and useful. What’s more, the personal connections you make on a service program with Global Volunteers can be profound and life-affirming. Request our full-color volunteering catalog to learn how you can use your retirement for global impact.  Read the three main reasons to volunteer abroad in retirement below!

Volunteer Abroad in Retirement

You may be surprised to find your status elevated in other cultures, and as a curator of wisdom and history, you can teach from your own experience. At the same time, you learn first-hand about the daily lives of the children and families you serve. Consider how volunteering abroad can enhance your retirement years:

   1. Use Life-Long Skills

The experience and knowledge you’ve acquired over six, seven or eight decades is an invaluable resource in our partner communities. Venture near or far, and teach conversational English to students of all ages. Share your talents and expertise with local teachers, trades people, farmers, medical aides, caregivers, administrators and more. Your knowledge is multiplied in communities requesting outside assistance.

   2. Help Children Thrive

Shower your patience and compassion on children who crave extra attention. In orphanages, children’s homes, hospitals and childcare centers, you can guide and encourage children who are disabled, abandoned or living in poverty. Hold and feed babies, play with toddlers, teach kindergarteners numbers and the alphabet. Regardless whether you’ve raised children yourself, you supply the “helping hands and loving arms” children need to feel loved and confident.

Volunteer abroad in retirement in Peru

   3. Make New Friends

Volunteer abroad in retirement for one, two or three weeks, and expose yourself to a broad expanse of personal stories and perspectives on a team of caring individuals. Working together, you serve alongside local people who share their lives, dreams and struggles. In team meetings, daily assignments and evening meals, you cultivate relationships that can greatly enhance your journey of discovery.  And, you might make lifelong friends!

“I felt like Queen Elizabeth of England when it was time to leave. All the students were assembled to wish me ‘Buon Vioggio.’ After singing an Italian farewell to me, I got to shake hands and kiss 175 beaming faces. I stood at the top of the stairs and waved goodbye until all the children were out of sight. I was so grateful. The whole experience was more than I could ever imagine.”
– Katherine Cox, Italy Volunteer

You’re needed now in the Cook Islands, Cuba, Greece, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Tanzania, USA (Montana and West Virginia), Vietnam, and nine other countries worldwide! Join the corps of retirees worldwide this year! Request a free, full color e-catalog on volunteering opportunities.

Get started! Request a free e-catalog.

Request a program catalog here or by calling 800-487-1074.







Need assistance with this form?