Jana Jansen van Vuuren
Posted: April 22, 2018
We’re all looking for our place in the world — the unique way in which our specific strengths can contribute to making a difference. While you’re never too old to connect to a cause and project you’re passionate about, most people will tell you, it’s better to start early.
To help you get inspired, we’ve matched the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to one (and maybe a few more) of our over 150 volunteer projects abroad to show you just how easy it can be to truly make an impact before your 30th birthday, whether you’re just taking a few weeks off or an entire gap year. Watch the video below to learn more about our commitment to helping volunteers creating lasting change in locations around the world.
Further Reading: 10 Things You Need To Know For Your First Volunteering Trip
A fifth of the world’s population still lives in extreme poverty. While many people still perceive poverty to be a necessary reality, this is simply not true. Efforts to eradicate poverty have resulted in it being halved in the past 15 years. But there is still a lot of work to do, and this is where you come in.
According to the World Bank, human capital is currently the biggest driver of global wealth. And which group is underrepresented in the global workforce? Women. Helping women in emerging economies increase or improve their income opportunities is the way forward.
In Costa Rica, GVI staff and volunteers help women in the coastal community of Quepos maximise their income by growing their professional skill sets and improving their small business models. In this way, you will be doing your part to make sure that the next generation is one to never know extreme poverty.
Further Reading: Why Volunteer?
Nearly 8 million people around the world still go hungry every day, while about 30% of the global population show signs of ‘hidden hunger’ obscured by excess weight. With food demand as well as obesity on the rise, as a global society we need to tackle this issue head on to guarantee our future wellbeing.
One of the main reasons people lack access to food is because of conflict in their area. While it is up to political leaders to secure a peaceful resolution, agriculture and nutritional education can help solve the other part of the food security puzzle. Helping towns plant and grow their own communal gardens frees them from the need to rely on an income to acquire food supplies. Helping them implement healthy meal plans assists with combating nutritional deficiencies and excessive weight gain.
The Pacific islands are specifically affected by both low food security and obesity. We work with communities in the Dawasamu District on the Fiji island of Viti Levu to set up community gardens, and conduct classes about vegetable farming, nutrition, and cooking. By working on this project you’ll be contributing directly to the UN’s goal to achieve zero hunger by the year 2030.
Further Reading: Which Gap Year Program Is Best For My Career?
Wellbeing is the basis of all progress and development, yet many people around the world still do not have access to the knowledge or resources to ensure a healthy life. Many children contract serious illnesses that could easily be prevented before their fifth birthday, and many teens, mostly girls, still contract serious HIV-related infections every year.
The key to ensuring a healthy and thriving global population is education. It has been shown that mothers who were provided with more academic opportunities were more able to ensure their toddlers stayed healthy and that teaching young adults, especially girls, about their own sexual rights and how to prevent STDs, decreases the number of people infected with HIV.
At our base near Cape Town, South Africa, one of our main objectives is to increase the community’s capacity for ensuring greater well-being. We hold rights awareness workshops for women and girls and emergency first response training sessions with parents and teachers. We also help ensure children are following daily health practices. By joining us on this project you’ll be helping to build healthier, happier, and more resilient communities worldwide.
Further Reading: 10 Things You Need To Do In Cape Town
Most of the world’s children are enrolled in schools, many of them, mostly girls seem to not be attending. Students also don’t seem to be mastering reading and writing or the valuable skill of working with numbers. This affects their ability to take advantage of future employment opportunities and stunts the economic growth of the county.
While schools, teachers, and students should be provided with more support, the only way to ensure that global literacy and numeracy rise consistently is to keep parents engaged in the conversation around the value of keeping children, especially, girls in school.
We’re in the process of setting up our very first teaching project in Peru. In September 2018 our first group of international volunteers will be starting their work with schools on the outskirts of Lima. Like them you could be helping increase the quality of education. Follow the projects progress development on Facebook.
Further Reading: 12 Awesome Things To Do In Peru
Globally, women are still paid only three quarters of what their main peers earn. What’s more, the harassment of and bias against women is common around the world, from low income households in developing nations to the top tiers of lucrative corporations in prosperous countries.
Again education is the key to creating change. While most women are already involved in some kind of daily, they might not have the educational support to secure or demand better paying positions or develop plans for additional funding of their startups. Communities also need to be made aware that abuse of female persons does not need to be the norm and that something can be done to prevent it.
In September 2018, we’ll be launching our very first gender equality program in Cambodia. Follow our journey setting it up on Facebook. By working with us on this project you’ll be helping Cambodian women increase their income opportunities through attending professional development and rights awareness workshops delivered by volunteers like you.
Further Reading: 7 Unmissable Things To Do In Magical Cambodia
Many people worldwide still do not have access to clean water. Often they become ill as a result of being forced to drink unsafe water. Diseases found in dirty water most seriously impacts children and the elderly.
Although the global population has increased significantly in the past fifty years, there is still enough water for all of us. The issue is making sure it is properly treated and gets to where it is needed. Poor infrastructure results in unsanitary waste removal practices as well as unhealthy communities.
On the Island of Viti Levu in Fiji, we run a water security project where we work with the local community and volunteers to install and effectively manage a rainwater harvesting system throughout the district of Dawasamu. If you are passionate about ensuring access to clean water for everyone, be sure to give this unique program a try.
Further Reading: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Take A Volunteer Adventure To Fiji
You can’t scroll through a feed or browse the internet without seeing stories about the effects of climate change everywhere. And the main cause of climate change? Excess carbon in the air caused by energy production. But people need energy to go places, stay warm, and perform daily tasks like cooking food. How do we balance the two needs?
In countries with a well-maintained infrastructure it is up to residents to use the resource wisely, but in locations that don’t rely on government resources, like developing regions, rural areas or remote destinations, it’s up to those living and working in these areas to ensure that they use safe and sustainable sources of energy by installing these themselves, with the help of support from green energy initiatives.
The GVI team who work on the tiny Seychelles island of Curieuse live completely off the grid. Not only is the island is remote, but it is also a nationally protected marine area and a popular tourist destination. Much of the base’s infrastructure including their solar-powered electricity was built by their own hands. As a volunteer on this project part of your job will be to help the team with maintaining these panels and make additional improvements. You’ll be learning just what it takes to solve a community’s need for energy while keeping the environment in mind.
Further Reading: Top 5 Reasons To Volunteer In Seychelles
Female students in our women’s empowerment program during a 3 week workshop on topics related to consent. Here students are working in groups to discuss a scenario and writing their own dialogues between two characters before presenting their dialogues to the class #gvitravel #gvilaos #makeadifference #volunteer #volunteerabroad #womenempowerment #teachabroad #consent #workshop
About 300 million people around the world are unemployed and most of them are young people. Also for many people having a job doesn’t guarantee you an income you can support yourself or your family on or safe and fair working conditions.
While you can support governments, employers, and social enterprises in addressing this global issue, you can also help by buying most of your goods from small locally run businesses. Another great way to contribute is to offer to exchange knowledge with persons who are looking to upskill themselves in order to access better work opportunities.
In Laos, many children leave their rural homes to enter Buddhist temple schools in the city of Luang Prabang. The schools accept only boys, meaning that men are privileged when it comes to future work. While we do help boys improve their test scores, we also work with girls and women in Luang Prabang to increase their personal employment opportunities through teaching English and sewing skills. By joining us in Laos you could help support the economic growth of this beautiful country.
Further Reading: 10 Reasons to Volunteer in Laos
‘Infrastructure Development’, might not be the most exciting concept, but clean water, energy, roads, safe transport, and information systems are absolutely vital to our global prosperity. Having no wifi is one thing, but when you consider that some people in the developing world are not able to study at night, take a quick shower, or get to school you can start to see why it would have such a massive effect on their future.
It’s easy to feel powerless to change the issue of poor infrastructure. You might think that because governments and corporations control the construction and maintenance of transport, water and energy systems that you can’t contribute. But you’re wrong. You can, by volunteering on building projects in developing regions.
In 2015, Nepal experienced a truly devastating earthquake. Much of the nation’s infrastructure was destroyed and, due to the extensive damage, recovery has been difficult. By working with us, you could help rebuilding and repairing schools, temples, and other buildings in the city of Pokhara, helping Nepal develop a new infrastructure that allows its people to access the vital resources they need to make a success of each day.
Further Reading: The Top 6 Reasons To Volunteer in Nepal
This week our Women’s Empowerment volunteers have been assisting women in the local community by teaching them to write CVs and type them on the computer. ???????????? #gvi #gvitravel #gvicapetown #gvisouthafrica #gvisouthafricacapetown #volunteer #volunteerabroad #workingwithchildren #makingadifference #womensempowerment
A lot of people think of income inequality as the necessary outcome capitalism. I work harder and I earn more, so I should own a pair of shoes that is worth more than someone else’s. But something seems inherently wrong about someone’s low income affecting their ability to seek medical attention or get an education. This level of inequality is found in countries all around the world.
Similar to supporting greater wealth and better economic growth, contributing to a more equal global society involves supporting local entrepreneurs, but also helping those that are looking to gain more professional opportunities to learn more skills through ongoing education initiatives.
In 2018, we’ll be launching our first women’s empowerment project in Ghana. Follow the project development journey on Facebook. Our team here will be working in the city of Accra helping women from underprivileged communities access better jobs by building on their professional skill set.
Further Reading: 16 Interesting Facts About Ghana
Today most of the world’s people live in cities and the numbers are only increasing. Bigger cities mean more homes and better systems for delivering resources to all these people. Again, the carbon emissions caused by creating enough fuel to power a city also needs to be taken into consideration. How do we ensure that all people in urban settlements are cared for while taking the environment into account?
Getting involved in your own city’s policy development system as well as volunteer construction projects are great local ways to get involved. You can also help communities in developing regions repair and expand their urban resources.
In the city of Cochin, on the West Coast of South India, some schools in low income communities, need help in ensuring students are provided with a safe, sustainable environment to learn. You can make Cochin a more efficient, more sustainable city by working with us to build playgrounds, walls, gardens and bathroom facilities at schools throughout the area.
Further Reading: 7 Reasons to Volunteer in India
An astounding amount of natural resources go to waste each year — Tons of drinkable water gets flushed down the drain, fresh food rots away in bins amd lamps burn bright all day and night without anyone there to benefit from the light. Farms are losing fertility as a result of high demand, oceans are being depleted due to overfishing, and pollutants from energy, food and other kinds of production are also flooding the environment. Something must be done.
The good news is that you can make a difference just by being more aware of your consumption of resources as you go about your day. Switch off lights and other appliances when you leave a room, use public transport as often as possible, be conservative with your water usage, buy only the food you need, recycle all reusable materials, and only buy fish from sustainable suppliers. But you can also do more by helping to clean up waste and educate others.
At our base on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, we regularly collect plastics off the beach, reefs, and ocean floor, and conduct environmental education workshops with the local community. Join us to go the extra mile in becoming a more responsible consumer.
Further Reading: 5 Diving Destinations You Need To Visit
Mangroves are one of the most important ecosystems on our planet but are being destroyed due to shrimp farms, over fishing, logging, rising sea levels and coastal development. Here in Phang Nga we are beginning to survey the local mangroves to understand the different species which grow here and how to best protect them. #gvitravel #GVIPhangNga #volunteer #volunteerabroad #makeadifference #ThailandServiceLearning #mangroves #conservation #makeadifference #impact #nature #adventure #learn
As we’ve already mentioned the impact of climate change is a subject of many current media stories. It causes habitats to shrink or might even destroy them, wiping out the many species found in that area. It also causes weather changes that results in natural disasters. In this way it puts not only our livelihoods, but our lives at risk and persons in the most supported regions pay the highest prices.
While you can urge your government representatives to take swift action on climate change, it is also important to understand the truly global nature of the problem and then need to protect natural habitats like wetlands, marine landscapes, and forests that absorb carbon and make our planet more resilient to excess carbon emissions.
Wetland areas are the most effective type of carbon storage habitat we know of. You can help to protect this important ecosystem by volunteering with us in Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. We’ve recently launched a mangrove surveying program here to learn more about how these wetland plants thrive and provide Thai policy makers with scientific data to back their environmentally sound decisions.
Further Reading: 8 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer In Thailand
It’s impossible to overstate the value of our oceans. They control our weather systems, support most of the life on the planet, contain water which we need for life, support our economies, and keep our earth cool. Blue Planet II most recently eloquently highlighted some of the many challenges our marine ecosystems face, the major issues being climate change, plastic pollution, and overfishing.
Again, you can help by insisting on buying from fish suppliers that only use sustainable fishing methods. Reducing your own carbon footprint by living more consciously, creating less waste by recycling and participating in plastic cleanups all contribute to a healthier ocean. But if you can, be sure to also participate in protecting unique marine areas and endangered sea life.
Sea turtles are key to maintaining the global marine ecosystem. They are maintain seagrass beds, the global jellyfish and sea sponges populations and improve the soil fertility of coastlines. Sadly their numbers have been radically reduced due to becoming trapped in fishing nets or plastics, ingesting plastics, and poaching. You can help boost the global turtle population by volunteering with GVI in Greece, in this way ensuring the future health of our oceans.
Further Reading: 7 Ways You Can Help Save The World’s Oceans
We’re so excited to finally introduce you to our wild cheetah cubs in #gvilimpopo! They’ve reached a healthy 8 weeks, and their chances of survival increase every day! Here you can see them playing with mom, who is doing a great job of looking after them ???? . . . #gvitravel #volunteerabroad #volunteer #makeadifference #wildlifeconservation #wildlife #nature #conservation #babycheetahs #cheetah #bigcat #kittens #instacat
Both plants and animals are rapidly disappearing. We rely on plants to extract carbon from the atmosphere, keeping our planet cool. And these plants cannot thrive without the animals that make up the other half their ecosystem. Climate change and deforestation are the two main cause of shrinking habitats and both are on the rise.
You can make a daily difference, just by using energy more efficiently and being wise in your food choices, but perhaps the easiest way to get directly to the heart of it is to volunteer on a critical habitat and wildlife project at least once.
At our base in Limpopo, one of the African continent’s wildlife conservation hotspots, we run an anti-rhino awareness and a cheetah study program, both highly threatened species. We also conduct studies on the impact of the local elephant population on endemic vegetation and work on rehabilitating the environment by growing and planting an important native tree species known as the Marula tree. Be sure to also take a look at our internship opportunity in Limpopo, which was recently voted the top international internship program of 2017.
Further Reading: Fascinating Facts About Africa’s Endangered Animals
Around the world abuse of human rights is still common. Conflict between organisations results in many children not being able to attend schools and families from accessing food. Many young men are exposed to hostile environments where they must protect themselves and abuse of women and children is still common.
While we can all let our governments know that peace and the appropriate use of resources is absolutely our main priority, it is also our job to remain peaceful in our interactions with others and promote fairness at home and at work. But we can also go outside our homes, our communities, our places of work and study, and our countries, to create a safe space for the most vulnerable in the world and teach them where to go when they need help.
In the Mexican town of Playa Del Carmen, we have been working with a centre run by Save the Children for many years. The goal of the center is to provide a place where children can learn about their rights, have a place to speak out about abuse and see that they can demand a world free from any harm.
Further Reading: 6 Reasons You Need To Volunteer Abroad In Mexico
If you’ve been following this post, you’ll have noticed how many important global issues involve partnering up, with individuals, local charities, social enterprises, governments, and international organisations. We cannot achieve achieve change without building connections.
While you might think that partnering up only applies to organisations with a national or global level of influence, it actually also applies to you. Partnering up with one of these local or international organisations is exactly what will get you started on your journey to making meaningful difference. And, if we can be forgiven for some shameless self-promotion, what better choice than GVI. We’re an award-winning international volunteer organisation known for ensuring that our volunteers make a sustainable impact and have an amazing time while they’re at it.
Connect with us to join any of our volunteering programs abroad. We’ve been building connections with local partners for two decades now. Some of our most established partnership include ones with the Seychelles Marine Park Authority and Buddhist temple schools in Laos. Three of our latest partnerships have recently allowed us to offer volunteering opportunities in three new locations, namely Cambodia, Ghana and Peru.
Further Reading: Top 10 Gap Year Ideas To Inspire You
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