Volunteer Haiti

Haiti isn’t everyone’s idea of a tropical paradise, at least not after the earthquake that tore into its capital in 2009. But if you’re looking for a meaningful vacation, it just might be the destination for you.

Natural disasters aside, countries like Haiti have always needed a helping hand, whether it’s caring for the sick or teaching kids who can’t afford to go to school. Volunteer Haiti programs cover everything from education and healthcare to environment, animal rights, women and children’s welfare, and disaster assistance. You can choose to work in fields you specialize in, or try something new and learn on the job.

In most cases you can choose the duration of your stay, although many volunteers decide to stay longer than initially planned. Some even decide to make a career out of charity work after finishing a volunteer Haiti program. To get the most of your experience, it’s best to stay at least a week. That’s the length of a typical vacation, but unlike your usual beach getaway, it leaves you with that happy feeling that you’ve helped change someone’s life.

Start by looking up charities in your area that may be of help, or local chapters of large organizations like the Red Cross. Most of them will have information on volunteer openings and requirements, as well as travel details. You may have to pay for your own trip and travel insurance, but chances are the organization will provide lodging and a bit of training.

You usually have to be at least 18 to be able to volunteer abroad. Depending on the task, you may have to meet other requirements, such as physical strength if you’ll be doing manual work and some hospital experience if you want to work in healthcare. People skills and a grasp of French, the local language, can also come in handy. What’s great about volunteering is that you get valuable experience to help you professionally, whether you choose to stay in charity or work elsewhere afterwards.

Volunteer opportunities are always subject to change because of the country’s political instability and proneness to natural disasters. Make sure any information you get is recent, and that the projects you want to help out on are still active. It’s not uncommon for an initiative to be aborted because of political or environmental pressures. Stay on the safe side by getting your information over the phone or in person, and getting everything in writing.

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