The Peace Corps is an incredible organization that has inspired thousands of people to volunteer overseas. Virtually everyone who has previously participated in the Peace Corps’ program (including our Founder/Director Andrew Motiwalla) generally finds it to be a rewarding, life-changing experience.
But let’s face it: The Peace Corps is also a serious commitment, and it’s not an experience that everyone is up for. The time commitment is generally 27 months, the locations are often quite remote and lacking in the luxuries most of us take for granted, and the work can be very physically demanding.
If that sounds like your cup of tea, then great! We’re sure the Peace Corps would love to have you. If not, that’s OK, too. Not everyone has the freedom, physical ability, or even desire to participate in this type of volunteer program. But there are plenty of other ways to experience life-changing travel that require less drastic commitments.
For those actively looking for Peace Corps alternatives, the following are just a few options to consider…
This kind of wwoofing isn’t just for the hounds. It’s actually for enthusiastic volunteers who are interesting in working on farms around the world. The acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farms. The organization matches volunteers with organic farms in need of some helping hands.
The host farms generally provide accommodation and meals in exchange for the work done by the volunteer, but the opportunities vary widely in their specific details. Volunteer responsibilities can include sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood and more. Those who are interested in learning more about organic farming methods will learn a lot of skills from their hosts.
For those looking to cut their costs while seeing the world, WWOOFing is an excellent option. Not only do you save on the expenses of accommodations and food, but you also get an inside look at the destination’s local culture by living and working with the farmers.
Do you enjoy working with kids? A volunteer teaching job with WorldTeach might be perfect for you. This non-profit, non-governmental organization was founded by a group of Harvard students in 1986 in response to the need for educational assistance in developing countries.
WorldTeach partners with governments and organizations around the world to provide volunteer teachers in the communities that need them most. Schools in developing countries are often overcrowded with eager students, but do not have enough teachers to properly supervise and teach the number of children they’re serving. Volunteers are helpful– in some places, essential– in providing extra supervision and assistance.
Volunteer educators are placed in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and the Pacific, where they get to experience the joy of having an impact on the young minds that will one day help to shape these fascinating places.
Here at Discover Corps, we’re obviously big fans of volunteer vacations. Our trips provide the perfect alternative to long-term commitments with short-term volunteer opportunities. Our volunteers participate in projects in communities similar to where Peace Corps volunteers live, without the lengthy time-commitment.
In 2012, the National Peace Corps Association selected Discover Corps as the sole operator of their travel program, Next Step Travel. So while you might be looking for a volunteer opportunity that’s less hardcore than 27 months of service, these trips allow you to support the mission of the National Peace Corps Association and promotes the importance of volunteer work and travel.
Volunteers for Peace
Much like Discover Corps, Volunteers for Peace offers volunteer opportunities in the U.S. and abroad, with a mission to promote an “effective means of intercultural education, service learning, and community development” and “peaceful relations among nations.”
Volunteers for Peace offers 1800 short-term international voluntary service programs in 70 countries for a wide range of ages, including teens and families.
Those who are interested will have to fill out an application for the volunteer projects that interest them. But placement is not guaranteed, and application fees will be returned to those who do not ultimately find placement.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
A TEFL certification (teaching English as a foreign language) opens the doors to teaching English around the world. These jobs are typically longer commitments than volunteer projects like those offered by Discover Corps. But for those interested in long-term travel in a single destination, teaching English is a great way to immerse yourself in a culture and make some money to support your travels while doing so.
The TEFL website offers options for courses and job listings for those who have already completed their certification. Over 21,000 employers are registered through TEFL, meaning there are plenty of schools around the world that are currently looking for qualified teachers.
TEFL-certified teachers are paid, rather than volunteers. But going this route could open up the option for volunteering in the community once you’ve settled into your teaching job, allowing you to make money to support your travels and help out with local causes at the same time!
There are many other ways to travel and help make a positive difference in the places you visit. Not everyone is hardcore enough for 27 months in the Peace Corps, but everyone can have a significant impact on local communities while traveling. –Britany Robinson
BIO: Britany Robinson is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her works appears in BBC Travel, Mashable, The Daily Dot and more. Her blog, Travel Write Away, shares advice and musings on travel writing. When she’s not planning her next big trip, she’s scoping out Portland craft beers and local hikes.
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Of course, there are other ways to travel for shorter time commitments than the Peace Corps! Some travel sites that I have bookmarked involve English exchange with a family homestay. Try Geovisions.org or culturegogo.com. There are also websites similar to Wwoof such as workaway.com, volunteerbase.com, and helpx.net. One of my favorite volunteer vacations just required English conversation with adults was Vaughntown in Spain. Vaughntown volunteers stay in 5-star resorts outside of Madrid and your food and lodging is paid for in exchange for English conversation with Spanish executives. Each session is 1 week and you can sign up for 2 consecutive sessions or longer.