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How to Volunteer for Humanitarian Aid Abroad

If there’s one thing that we all have in common, it’s that we are all human. We may come in different shapes and sizes, speak a variety of languages and follow traditions that are unique to our communities, but the being human part is what binds us all.

Unfortunately, not everyone in the world is lucky enough to have access to what most of us would call the ‘basics for survival’, including clean water, nutritious food, shelter, healthcare and education. Having said that, what we do have is the opportunity to share our luck and join in the efforts of supporting the underprivileged by going on a humanitarian aid trip abroad.


Female volunteer with child in South Africa

What is humanitarian aid?

In short, it is the alleviation of human suffering.

Humanitarian projects and people going on humanitarian aid trips, generally look to give a helping hand in areas that are either underfunded or even unreached by the government.

Left to their own devices, these communities and marginalised groups are struggling to keep their heads above water, so organizations are set up in the hopes of eliminating poverty and improving people’s prospects in life, by attacking the given issue at the root cause. With this, the people are able to retain their dignity and work towards gaining proper independence where they will be able to flourish in their own rights.

Female volunteer teaching girl student in Nepal

Crisis response vs long term work

When we think of humanitarian aid, we often imagine victims of natural disasters, wars and famines or other places where people may literally be dying in the streets. This is one aspect of humanitarian work, however the help that is required there is usually best left to skilled and experienced workers. 

No experience but still want to create an impact in the world?  Not a problem; there’s plenty of people that can benefit from your goodwill.

The flipside of humanitarian aid is the long term effort that is needed to bring people back to a state of independence and help to relieve their suffering. Refugees and migrants, the homeless and people that may just be down on their luck, are in as much need of a helping hand and will greatly benefit from what you are able to offer them. Such groups are found in both developed and developing countries so don’t think that your humanitarian mission trip needs to be to some far away land, it may just be closer than you think.

Education female volunteer with schoolchildren in Bali


Why is international aid needed?

When we travel, we bring three essential tools to any given place:
  • Money
  • Attention
  • Ourselves
This is exactly what is missing in most humanitarian aid projects:
  • Finances
  • Awareness
  • Resources
By going on a volunteer trip to a humanitarian aid project, you automatically boost their efforts. Not only are you able to provide material and logistic assistance, but the stories that you will treasure forever and even the Instagram pictures that may garner many likes, will help to promote awareness about the cause that you are working on. Through your experiences, other people will be able to better understand the situation of the community that you were working with, thus bringing international recognition to the project.

Now THIS is how you make an impact!



How does volunteering benefit humanity?

By going to volunteer abroad on a humanitarian trip, you will not only be making a positive difference in the lives of people that you interact with, but also society in general.

This is because when we experience the lives of others and share our warmth with them, we are able to break down barriers and stereotypes, as well as help to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. So many of the world’s issues today are down to us not seeing one another as simply… human. One interaction at a time, through your humanitarian aid efforts, you will be able to contribute to a better world.

Just like that.

5 reasons to become a humanitarian aid volunteer
  • A great opportunity to make a difference in the world during your travels
  • Learn how to work with people in crisis
  • Experience being outside of your comfort zone, with limited resources
  • Enhance your CV with experience for a career in international development 
  • Be the change you want to see in the world!



GoEco’s top humanitarian aid projects

When choosing a project, you can look for a placement in an area that you are already skilled in, or one that you would like to gain experience in. Usually aid is required in the areas of education, healthcare, community development, social work and IT/ administration. 

Humanitarian Aid in Costa Rica: Social Work Internships - During this supervised internship, you will have the option to work on projects such as a daycare centre for children coming from low-income parents and a foundation that works with women wanting to get out of the sex industry. Past volunteer Dana did a medical social work internship that allowed her to work in a clinic that only served uninsured patients, who were mostly migrants. Make sure you read about her experience!

Humanitarian Aid in Bali: Education in Bali - This is one of GoEco’s most popular projects. It focuses on teaching English to kindergartners. If you wanted to combine volunteering with a beach vacation, then this is the project for you.

Humanitarian Aid in Israel: Food Baskets for Families - Experience living in the holy land as you prepare food baskets for the hungry. Distributing around 3,000 baskets a week, this project aims to provide families and individuals in need with products to produce a meal, that they may otherwise not have been able to afford. During religious holidays, this number can rise as high as 15,000!

Humanitarian Aid in Nepal: Empowering Women in Kathmandu - This is a project for anyone interested in experiencing life in the Himalayas and working with disadvantaged women. By teaching the women English, basic computer skills and running reproductive health workshops, you will help to empower women to be more independent.

Humanitarian Aid in Zambia: Livingstone Healthcare and Community Outreach - Operating in some of the poorest medical clinics in Livingstone, this project offers a number of opportunities for humanitarian aid workers to take part in. These include HIV education work in prisons, home based care for immobile patients, assisting at an elderly care home and in clinics. You will also work on other community building tasks such as literacy and art clubs.




3 tips on how to get the most out of your humanitarian trip

1. Learn about the country and culture that you will be travelling to. People are formed by their cultures and traditions, and their understanding of the world may be very different to your own. It doesn’t make it any more right or wrong than what you believe in. Cultural sensitivity should be your top priority.

2. Understand the challenges that may be involved. No hot water? Lack of food? Missing items like writing materials at a school? If everything was easy then humanitarian aid probably wouldn’t be called for, so learning to be flexible in the face of a challenge will be key during your trip.

3. Be prepared mentally to witness poverty. There probably isn’t anything that will actually prepare you for such, except for the knowledge that you may witness scenes that may be difficult to comprehend. Just remember, that in a few short weeks you will be leaving, yet the community that you had been working with will continue to live there, so make sure you make the most of your time!

Are you ready to start your humanitarian aid career and make a difference in the world?