Volunteer Resource: VSO

If you’re an experienced teacher with a recognized qualification and are looking for a challenge in a far-flung destination, check out VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) or VSO Canada, which works with both Canadians and Americans.

VSO places skilled volunteers – in fields like business, health, social services and IT in addition to education – in a number of disadvantaged countries, primarily in Asia and Africa. While similar in some respects to the Peace Corps, VSO is an independent charitable organization and is not funded by any government.

Many of the teaching posts require that the volunteer be a certified teacher in his own country, though some posts require only a BA, a TEFL certificate, and experience. The work does not sound easy (one post mentions teaching six days a week in Eritrea – though only from September to March, then five days a week – sometimes with classes of sixty to seventy students!) but would presumably allow you to make a contribution to a place you might not even have the chance to visit otherwise.

Like Peace Corps volunteers, VSO volunteers receive a modest stipend, but in the case of VSO this stipend is paid by the local organization or government of the host country, not the US government. VSO volunteers also receive a small allowance paid into a North American bank account as well as a resettlement allowance upon completion.

Applicants fill out a two page form which requires two references, a c.v. or resume, and a statement of purpose. VSO recommends applying six to nine months before you’d like to leave, and while, according to the site, there is some room for applicants’ interests and requests, placements are made by matching a volunteer’s skill area to posts that need to be filled most urgently.

See the site for FAQ’s, volunteer stories, and actual volunteer postings. What are you waiting for? This time next year you could be teaching in Namibia, China, or Guyana!