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As a young college graduate, I headed to Europe for a year and a half of adventures. Upon returning to California, I said to myself, “I’m a teacher. I need to get my credential!” And when I had that, adventure called once again, so I applied to the Peace Corps, thinking I would put my teaching skills to work somewhere in the world. With application accepted and passport in hand, I was ready to go. Then I received a letter from the Peace Corps saying, “We’re sorry. We have too many teachers and can’t take you now!”

Volunteer opportunities around the world have recently proliferated. And now, at the opposite end of my career, I find an abundance of opportunities for our age group. And many organizations around the world ready to utilize our many talents and skills. It’s now easy to combine your travel bug with your deep desire to make a difference.

Where to Find Volunteer Travel Opportunities

Here are just some of the organizations that take volunteers over 50. I’ve included information from their respective pages regarding what they provide and their age limits:

  • Cross Cultural Solutionscrossculturalsolutions.org
    Although anyone can participate, Cross-Cultural Solutions reviews every volunteer enrollment carefully, screening our volunteers to ensure their safety and the safety of the communities in which our programs operate. The minimum age for volunteers on CCS programs is 18 years old when unaccompanied by an adult.
  • DiscoverCorpscom
    The mission of Discover Corps is to inspire travelers to become advocates for our planet’s natural wonders, cultural treasures, and local communities. We accomplish this through immersive and sustainable travel experiences for families and adults.
  • Earthwatch Institute: earthwatch.org
    Their mission: To engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. You choose your level of activity and the location to which you’d like to travel.
  • Global Service Corpsglobalservicecorps.org
    For Active Retirees and Boomers Who Seek Volunteer Vacations in Cambodia
  • Peace Corpspeacecorps.gov
    Do you know that the Peace Corps doesn’t have an age limit? Maybe you had wanted to serve with the Peace Corps when you were younger but had career or family responsibilities that prevented it. Are you ready now?
  • United Nations Volunteersunv.org
    The minimum age for UN volunteers is 25. There is no upper age limit.
  • Global Volunteers: https://globalvolunteers.org
    As one of the world’s pioneers in volunteer travel, GoEco now offers exciting, hands-on experiences for 50+ travelers who want to give their time, passion, and expertise to make a difference. These specially designed programs ensure maximum comfort, the opportunity to make meaningful contributions, and the chance to experience the magical wonders
  • My Itchy Travel Feet: https://myitchytravelfeet.com
    At My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel, Donna and Alan travel the world recording their experiences with words, photos and videos so that boomers will know exactly what to expect on their next trip. You’ll find many articles on volunteer travel.
  • Transitions Abroad: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/senior/volunteer_vacations_for_adults_and_seniors.shtml
    Articles on senior volunteer vacations and meaningful service abroad; lists of projects known for providing senior-friendly volunteer environments.

What Can You Do as a Volunteer

In her article at Transitions Abroad, “Boomers, the New Seniors, and International Volunteer Service,” (http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0711/volunteer_service_abroad_baby_boomers.shtml), Ann McLaughlin* has deftly outlined how to put some of our skills to good use as volunteers.

Your Skill Needs
Accounting Assist people with loans and teach bookkeeping.
Alternative Energy (e.g. Solar Power) Help bring power to remote villages.
Business Development Teach others how to create and run a thriving and sustainable enterprise.
Computer Teaching Help people communicate and learn about others around the world.
Construction Help build clinics in Nicaragua, schools in Kenya and other parts of the world.
Dentistry Dentists often serve stints, but they can also volunteer longer.
Drama, Writing Help people reclaim culture or to express trauma; the connective tissue of cultures.
Environmentalism Cleaning house, at a planetary level.
Journalism Help people tell the truth where it needs to be told.
Marketing Help craftspeople find a market for their products.
Mechanics People who can teach motorbike mechanics are in demand.
Medicine The need is great. With only about 1 doctor/15,000 people in most African countries, opportunity abounds.
Midwifery Teach how to prevent deaths in childbirth and train birth attendants.
Nursing Primary care, health education, teaching nursing.
Nutrition Many on the planet are hungry or malnourished.
Organizational Structure and Management With such a burgeoning of NGOs, mentors are needed.
Parenting Caring for orphans; many kids are abandoned because AIDS has taken their parents’ lives or their parents can’t feed them.
Psychology Assist victims of trauma, sexual and physical abuse.
Public Health Sanitation saves lives, as does teaching health prevention.
Sewing and Haircutting These vocational skills are in high demand among females.
Social Work Refugees, prostitutes, and many others desire social services and assistance to transform their lives.
Teaching Literacy is most essential but all subjects are needed.
Youth Work Mentor kids and teach them vocational skills.

(*Ann McLaughlin, a social worker, directs NGOabroad, a unique service that helps people enter international humanitarian work and provides frugal, customized international volunteer options.)

Make your travels count: find a volunteer opportunity somewhere in the world!

 

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