So you’ve decided you want to volunteer in another country - great! Now begs the question, what do you want to do? There are so many choices, that sometimes the decision can be overwhelming. For many volunteers who decide to go abroad, they end up in teaching gigs in any of the multitudes of countries where English is a second language, AND a valuable asset. But you may be wondering how can you make an impact on the world with volunteer teaching?
While many countries looking for volunteer English teachers may have language schools, and many children in private schools have plenty of access to native English Speakers, the sad reality is that scores of the poorest children and adults never get even the slightest exposure to English. To them, learning English can open doors to jobs that can make more money for their families, and brighter futures for their children. Volunteering to teach English to people like this, can completely change the trajectory of their life, there is no contribution too small!
There are many organizations, great organizations that you can pair up with to volunteer teach, this is even a great way to get teaching experience for free if you are looking to teach ESL as a career! I ended up teaching abroad for 7 years, and it was all because I gained such valuable experience volunteer teaching. I was fortunate enough to land a volunteer teaching gig in South America for 3 months that was run by the country’s government.
Try to always work directly with the people working on the ground and in the same country with the organizations they will be placing you with. This is always a good indicator that they are placing you in a good project. So figure out where you want to go, and put the feelers out and see what kind of response you get. If it seems unorganized during the correspondence period - pass and go on to the next one. There are plenty of good gigs out there that are run well and are cheap volunteering teaching experiences.
If you are looking to volunteer teach in Costa Rica, Hibiscus Travels and Learning Abroad Experiences networks with schools, orphanages and community centers, all over Costa Rica in the Puntarenas province of the country. They keep the cost of volunteering really low, so your money is covering your food and lodging, and it is also being funneled into the project where you will be working. Eliminating agencies makes sure that volunteers are having positive and impactful experiences. Lauren Markey runs a solid organization and is well networked within many of the communities she works with, she has paired hundreds of volunteers, many of those in teaching opportunities, all over Costa Rica.
Volunteering can be done on a budget with a little internet savvy, just beware of “agencies”, and you will know who they are, because they usually have hundreds of volunteering opportunities all over the world. While it seems like a good thing, they usually skim quite a bit in fees “placing” you in a project, and then they are not involved in your participation in the least. Again, do a little research, and you can land a sweet teaching gig in an awesome place!