The best places to teach English as a volunteer are in regions with high demand for English education but limited resources. Countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and parts of Eastern Europe are often ideal for TESOL course graduates seeking volunteer opportunities. These regions offer a diverse range of settings, from rural villages to urban schools, where the impact of volunteer teaching can be significant. Volunteers can expect to encounter students of various ages and backgrounds, all eager to learn English for better opportunities. The experience not only benefits the learners but also provides volunteers with a rich cultural immersion and a chance to develop their teaching skills.
Table of Contents
There are plenty of great reasons to volunteer as an ESL teacher and everyone who does it has their own motivations. Some of the most common reasons include:
- To learn more about an individual country: The best way to discover more about a country and its people is to actually spend time there.
- To explore the culture: Once again, if you want to understand a culture you need to be immersed in it for a length of time.
- To try out teaching: A stint as a volunteer teacher is an excellent way to find out whether teaching is for you.
- No long-term contract: You get to enjoy all the benefits of teaching overseas without having to sign up to a long-term deal.
- To experience living with a host family: Volunteer positions often include the opportunity to live with a local family within the immediate community.
- To bump up your CV/resume: The experience gained from volunteering will greatly enhance your portfolio and demonstrate to future employers that you are happy to step outside your comfort zone.
- To provide a valuable service: Volunteer teaching will help other people immensely and help you to grow as a person.
- To learn a new language: Many teachers take the opportunity to learn the language of the host country they are volunteering in.
The bottom line is that volunteer teaching programs are available on almost every continent and within dozens of individual countries. As there are too many different options to mention, the best advice is to do an online search of the countries that interest you to see what options are currently on offer.
When it comes to picking the best destination for volunteer teaching there is obviously no clear answer as it very much depends on the personal preferences of each individual teacher. The first thing you need to do is decide what exactly you want to get out of the experience and then find the programs that are most likely to make that happen. If you are looking to brush up on your Arabic, for example, then look for a country where that is possible. However, just bear in mind that if the program requires you to teach for 50 hours a week, you are unlikely to have the time or energy to do much else.
Volunteering in any form typically takes place in regions of the world where schools cannot afford to pay teachers a salary and are therefore looking to bring in unpaid workers. As a consequence, many of the countries that you might end up living and working in will lack the infrastructure and facilities that you are probably used to back home. Before you make any firm plans it is a good idea to do plenty of research in order to avoid being overwhelmed by things when you arrive at your chosen destination.
Across the world there are several well known programs that offer volunteer positions without having to pay a fee. The most popular of these include:
Take a look at the VSO website
Take a look at the WWOOF website
3. Peace Corps
Take a look at the Peace Corps website
International Volunteer HQ
Take a look at the International Volunteer HQ website
UN Volunteers can receive a monthly Volunteer Living Allowance (VLA)
Take a look at the UN Volunteers website
The truth is that there are more volunteer programs that require you to pay a fee than there are free options. There are far too many programs around the world to list here, so we recommend you use all the information already provided and conduct your own research to find out about the schemes that interest you. When paying for a place on a program it is vital that you are fully aware of what to expect once you arrive on site.
It is also worth checking out organizations such as the International Forum for Volunteering in Development as they can provide plenty of useful information and insight into various programs around the world.