Making the decision to volunteer is a difficult decision. Knowing why it is that you want to volunteer helps you decide among your wide-ranging options for funding, location and organizations.
Volunteering with a government-sponsored volunteer program like the Peace Corps of the United States may solve some of these lingering questions. In government-sponsored volunteer programs like the Peace Corps all expenses are paid, including health and accident insurance, training costs, travel expenses, along with stipend for volunteers. However, in volunteering with a government-supported volunteer program you are inevitably coupled with US foreign policy objectives.
In volunteering with organizations that work with NGOs and citizens’ groups, it’s important to understand that some of these smaller programs are unable to offer a stipend, insurance, or travel benefits. Funding can often be the greatest obstacle. Student loans, however, can be deferred while participating full time in any tax exempt volunteer agency. Other funding sources include scholarships, fellowships, and loans. More and more volunteer organizations volunteers are eligible for AmeriCorps grants upon completion of service that can go toward further education or to pay for current student subsidized loans. Long-term volunteer opportunities with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity International, Lasallian Volunteers, and Mennonite Central Committee often do provide benefits, including help repaying educational loans, insurance, and monthly stipends. While many short term volunteer opportunities are viewed more as a vacation, during which the volunteers pay for necessary expense during their few weeks of service.
There are many different opportunities out there. Hopefully the links to the right will help you in your search for a place to volunteer your time to help make a difference. It’s not an easy decision or process; however, the difference you could make would never be forgotten.
Other non-governmental volunteer opportunities can be found in the book Alternatives to the Peace Corps: Volunteer Opportunities.