What kind of placements are available?
There are so many different kinds of volunteering placements centred on caring for children and young people. There’s volunteering with disabled children, which can range from physiotherapy and medical initiatives to coaching sport and other activities; medical care volunteering, which will see you working alongside medical professionals in either cities or developing local communities; volunteering with street children, which focuses on education and providing a stable environment. This wide range of volunteering opportunities mean you can always find a way to contribute, whatever your skills or travel plans may be.
Where should I volunteer with children?
The vast majority of volunteering with children placements are found in developing nations, where there is still widespread poverty, a lack of healthcare, and poor access to education. This can often mean that what you can contribute as a volunteer is invaluable to children living there. Where you volunteer may depend on which type of placement you are interested in pursuing, as different countries will be in need of different types of projects and volunteers. Still, there are plenty of opportunities available throughout Africa, South East Asia, India, South America, and Central America, making it fairly easy to fit volunteering with children into wider travel plans if you wish.
How do I know which placement is right for me?
Volunteering with children is always an amazing experience, but you will be expected to work hard while you are with any placement. You can’t do much good if you’re not able or willing to do the work. This means it’s important that you choose a volunteer project that lines up with your skills and interests, as well as one you are physically prepared for, to make sure that you can stick it out for the duration of your placement. For example, if you’re particularly passionate about volunteering with disabled children, look into projects where you’ll be working closely with them.
We recommend always closely reading what a volunteer placement will require of you to make sure it’s right for you before committing to anything. Leaving a placement early can leave a project shorthanded, and leave vulnerable children without important care.
How can I tell if a volunteer program is ethical?
There are so many volunteering opportunities available that, especially when children are involved, it’s important to ensure that whichever you choose is ethically run. There are numerous ways you can find out if a placement is sound. Before you commit to anything, do as much research into an organisation or individual project as you can: read their website and look for information on their goals, their relationships with local communities, and how and where they spend their money. You can also take this further by getting in touch and asking questions. Testimonials from previous volunteers should be available, and you should be able to request to be put in direct contact with some if you’d like. Online reviews and forum posts can also be useful. Find out as much as you can before you book, so you can ensure you’ve made the right decision. Check out our guide to choosing a volunteering placement for more advice.
Why do I have to pay a fee if I'm volunteering?
It might seem strange to pay a fee when you are going to be volunteering your time and work for free. However, this money can be vital to volunteering with children projects. Depending on the nature of the project it is often used to cover the costs of looking after children in their care. Your fee may also be used to cover any expense of having you join the placement, such as food, accommodation, and transport. Some of it may also be donated or invested in the local community, such as schools, businesses, and healthcare facilities, helping to create a better future for the children you’ll be caring for. If you are concerned as to where your money will go, this is definitely a fair question to ask of any volunteer project.
Do I need any qualifications to volunteer with children?
Many volunteer projects will not require you to hold any qualifications or training before you begin a placement. If any training is necessary, it will be given to you once you arrive. Much of the work will be general care or manual labour, and skills can be matched accordingly. If the work is anything more complex, such as providing medical care to children, you will work alongside a professional.
The exception to this rule is that some teaching-focused volunteer programs may require you to hold a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification. If this, or any other qualification, is required by a project, this will made clear in the listing.
How long should I volunteer with children for?
The duration of your stay will depend somewhat on the exact nature of what work you are doing. However, when volunteering with children it is recommended that a placement is as long as possible. A good minimum amount of time is two to three months. This is enough time for you to settle into the work, develop a real rapport with the children in your care, and make a real difference to their lives. It also helps provide consistency to their world, as constantly changing carers can be emotionally difficult for children. Always think carefully about how much time you have to offer when you are planning your trip.
What time of year should I volunteer with children?
It goes without saying that children are in need all over the world throughout the year. There will always be projects somewhere in need of volunteers. That said, it’s important to research the weather, climate, and conditions you will be working in depending on the time of year. If you are not good with heat, for example, you may not be able to work effectively in a tropical country at the height of summer. It isn’t selfish to choose conditions that will suit you as much as possible if it means you will be able to work to your highest standards.
Do I need a visa to volunteer with children?
Visas are a complicated business, requirements varying greatly for different countries depending on your nationality. While UK nationals can enter many countries as a tourist without a visa, if you are going to be working you will probably need permission. Volunteer organisations can often provide information about this, but we recommend getting in touch with your embassy and the embassy of the country you’re planning to visit to find out exactly what the requirements will be. This can be done online. Visas need to be taken seriously, as not having one – or having the wrong one – can prevent you from joining the project when you arrive.
Do I need vaccinations to volunteer with children abroad?
If you are going to be working in developing nations it is always wise to check with your GP well before you travel if you will need any vaccinations. This becomes particularly important if you are going to be doing medical volunteering with children, or working in environments which may not have the best health conditions. A volunteer organisation may be able to provide a list of what vaccinations are required, but detailing what you are going to be doing and where to your GP is the best way to ensure your health and safety once you travel.