February 1, 2012

International Volunteering: State of the Nation

When Zahara Heckscher stepped off her bus in Managua, Nicaragua, she had no idea what to expect. It was 1986, and after learning Spanish in Mexico, she was eager to start volunteering. There was only one small problem: she didn’t have a placement arranged.

“My inspiration to co-write the book was that I had so much trouble finding volunteer opportunities,” says the co-author of How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas. “Today, it’s a lot easier.” 

Over the last 25 years, the landscape of international volunteerism has changed dramatically. Not only do volunteers no longer have to get on a plane to find an opportunity, but there are also placements to meet the needs of virtually any prospective volunteer. You can choose your length (a week, a month, a year or even just a day), your project focus (from basic infrastructure to policy development), your country and your departure date. With countless non-profits, social entrepreneurs and tour operators offering programmes, it’s no longer an activity reserved for idealistic university students—it seems like everyone is doing it. 

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