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Volunteer programmes abroad have gained popularity in recent years; people want more than just a pool and a cocktail and that is no bad thing.

These globetrotting humanitarians travel to struggling communities to help them with causes with which they simply do not have the resources to accomplish by themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than with teaching, which is why it is fast becoming the most popular volunteer activity abroad. While there are other, more dire, problems affecting underprivileged people in nations such as Malawi and Uganda, they are issues that an ordinary person simply just can’t help with.

A waiter from London, for example, can’t go out and help fight the HIV epidemic of Malawi because they don’t have the medical knowledge. However, they do have a high quality education, an education that they can help pass onto communities that have little in the way of schooling. With so many other issues affecting these countries, education tends to take a back seat and as such, the only way children of struggling nations will ever have an education is if it provided for free by volunteers. However, if you are thinking about getting involved in this noble cause, there are a few things you should be aware of before you take the final step of booking your project.

Choosing the right organisation

Unfortunately, no matter which organisation you sign up with, a volunteer project is going to cost you money. Flights and other expenses have to be covered by you, because the charities working out in these countries are putting all their profits into support and volunteer resources. Or so they might claim. Before handing your money over to a organisation offering a volunteer trip, do a bit of research into them. Find out if they really are non-profit or not. A good way to do this is to ask for evidence of how money is being spent. An organisation with nothing to hide won’t be shy about providing these details. A business out to exploit you and the community you're travelling to will be less forthcoming.

Teaching Assistant

Unless you're a qualified teacher, chances are don’t have any experience in a teaching environment. While you might have the knowledge to impart, being smart doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher. To get information across to students who most likely won’t have any form of education material, not even a book to write notes in, you need to be imaginative with your teaching methods. Something you might struggle with doing if you have no experience. A good way to get around this is by signing on as a teaching assistant. As an assistant you’ll gain teaching experience, be a valuable member of the team and won’t take opportunities away from class leaders who have the skills and know-how to educate the children of these struggling nations.

TEFL

If your heart is set on undertaking the teaching role, however, don’t fret. While you might not be able to teach the complexities of maths or the wonders of science, you can teach another subject: the English language. It comes fluently to us, but is of vital importance to children in troubled countries as it is one of the universally spoke languages, which provides them with better prospects for the future. However, before you sign on to teach english, it is highly recommended to undergo a short TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) course, to gain an understanding of the teaching techniques required to communicate such learnings. This will mean you don’t travel halfway around the world on a worthless excursion where the people you meet learn little to nothing, instead it will ensure you have the right tools for the job.

Do it for the right reasons

This is not something that happens very often, but does still occur from time to time. A person will decide to volunteer as a teacher, not to impact a community, but to instead see the world on the cheap. They arrive with little to no interest in what they are doing, dawdle around not imparting any wisdom, yet consuming time and resources that could be put to better use. If you want to travel the world by volunteering, it’s essential that you pick projects that speak to you and that you will be happy doing.

Rewarding

If you pick your project for the right reasons, find an organisation that is genuinely out in these countries to help the people, and you pick a role within the teaching opportunities that you can accomplish, then you’re in for an incredible time. The emotions you’ll experience will be life changing, and the impact you have on the young people of these nations will be the same. People often come back with a new sense of achievement and perspective, something they would never have got through in their ordinary lives.

If you want to get involved in volunteer teaching, organisations like Naturally Africa Volunteers have ethical projects to suit the individual interests.


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5 things to consider before teaching abroad
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