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Volunteering Abroad - The Next Step in Helping

In light of recent events, a new focus has been placed on helping others in need. While it is a wonderful opportunity to help out in your home country, the rewards of volunteering in countries overseas are limitless. Many organizations in foreign countries are understaffed and under funded and rely solely on the support of volunteers to survive. The rewards to be reaped by the volunteer in another country can include: learning a foreign language, gaining international work experience, broadening one’s world view, experiencing a new culture first hand, and preparing for future employment or residence in another country.

For people really looking for an opportunity to make a difference on a global scale, there are programs available through many companies all over the world looking for the assistance of volunteers. Different companies specialize in different organizations and in trying to make a difference in the region(s) they represent. Volunteers are needed in many areas of the world in many different fields including: teaching, construction, environmental work, working with children and adults with disabilities, to name a few.

AmeriSpan Unlimited is one such company that targets organizations in Latin America in need of volunteers. Each year, approximately 3,000 students participate in AmeriSpan programs to Latin America to learn the language and the culture. Of the annual participants each year, about 10% of them participate in the Volunteer and Internship Program.

Since the very beginning, AmeriSpan has been active in “making a difference” in Latin America and the Hispanic community. Over the years, they have been involved in a number of charity projects such as rainforest preservation; literacy projects targeting predominantly Hispanic communities in the USA; and various organizations in Latin American that are a part of the Volunteer and Internship Program. These organizations offer a variety of services and assistance. A few of the areas of focus are: helping abandoned or orphaned children, preserving fauna in Costa Rica (particularly with endangered sea turtles and scarlet macaws), and working with under funded public schools to name a few.

The benefits of volunteering abroad extend much further than just to one specific agency or group of individuals. “In reality, by volunteering, you not only help others in need, you help yourself too. The personal growth and satisfaction experienced by our volunteers in their home country is the main reason that they choose to enroll in a program overseas. They’re taking their volunteering skills to the next level, and that’s something very commendable.” says Liz Cleveland, Volunteer Coordinator at AmeriSpan Unlimited.

Ultimately, volunteering internationally promotes positive intercultural awareness. During these times of international tensions, it is imperative that we make an extra effort to help others learn about different cultures while at the same time, promoting awareness of our own culture.

By: Elizabeth Gregory

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