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International Volunteer Mission
When faith plays a part in travel
Some of the best international volunteer mission opportunities are with religious groups and many of you may prefer this type of placement, whether to rejuvenate or affirm your faith, or simply because agree with what your faith represents.
Service is longer term, often several years at a time, and the spiritual side of volunteering can help make what will become a tremendous experience, filled with growth and discovery.
Many groups place you in a local home. As a volunteer abroad for a faith group you may live in a community of like-minded people so you're not as lonely when you first travel overseas.
Conditions vary and there are many options, whether rural or urban, young and old, on your own or accompanied, professional or unskilled.
And faith groups often cover expenses, including flights, room and board, and health insurance. Some may even add in a few extras, such as help with student loans or modest living expenses. Be warned, though, this isn't always the case and you may have to subsidize your own trip, even if you do volunteer with a faith group.
Read their websites carefully and talk to returnees - it's the best way to find out what it's really like helping others in a faith group abroad. Here are some of the points and questions you might consider during your interviews or research:
- Some programs require religious affiliation but many don't and will take any like-minded person whose life philosophy is consistent with the faith's beliefs.
- Some that do have religious guidelines may expect you to actively promote their faith. If this makes you uncomfortable then perhaps this isn't the right group for you.
- While they may cover most costs, they don't necessarily cover all - find out what you'll have to pay, and make sure you can live with that. In many countries, remember that living costs are extremely low, and if you live in a rural area, there may be nothing on which to spend your money.
- Lifestyle issues feature prominently with religious charities and whether you are married, single or living in partnership may have an impact on whether you're awarded an overseas placement.
- As with any international volunteer mission, country of placement and type of work should be investigated in depth, as should the length of the mission.
- What do local people think of your faith and its work in their community?
- Don't neglect the issue of security. In some countries, members of a different faith are distinctly unwelcome and promoting your faith may actually be illegal. Be sure you check with your sending organization about this: it can turn an otherwise serene mission into a nightmare.
Whether you're seeking Christian volunteer work or non-Christian faith based volunteering, there are opportunities in many countries for volunteers of all faiths.