Many of us travel for different reasons. Some people travel to simply explore the world, have fun, and make memories while others go on trips to clear out their minds, understand themselves better, and improve their physical and mental health.
Aside from unwinding and taking on new adventures, I also travel to broaden my horizons by meeting other people and learning first-hand the different cultures of the world. On every trip, I learn new things not only about others but also about myself. While I want to travel all the time, I do not have the finances to do it regularly.
This is when I found out about ways to travel by doing volunteer work. I learned about several travel programs that low-income individuals can take advantage of. These programs are mostly free or provide ways to raise funding for your trip. To learn more, read on!
- Global Glimpse Travel Program
- No Barriers’ Learning AFAR Program
- Raleigh Expedition for Your Gap Year
- Volunteer as a Professional at VSO
- Peace Corps Response Program
Global Glimpse Travel Program
Global Glimpse is a nonprofit organization that partners with U.S. high schools to provide students with a structured leadership program. It involves a powerful travel experience focusing on service learning, cultural immersion, and leadership development.
During their trip to a developing country, students are able to learn about its history, culture, politics, poverty, education, development, and business.
I learned that under Global Glimpse’s travel programs, juniors or sophomores from hundreds of high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, New York, and Western Massachusetts are able to visit places like the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Panama, and Nicaragua.
These programs, which last 16 days, include touring historical sites and joining cultural activities, working at a local business, and spending a day with workers at the local dump to better understand poverty in the country. Over 7,000 students and 600 educators have joined Global Glimpse programs since 2008.
Need-Based Scholarships and Program Cost
If you’re a student from a low-income family, will you be able to afford to join these programs? The answer is ‘absolutely, yes’! Global Glimpse provides needs-based scholarships to all students in its partner school programs and in 2019, the organization was able to provide $3.2 million in scholarships.
To make the program accessible to students from different income level families, Global Glimpse offer scholarships on a sliding fee scale, meaning students may pay from as high as $4,200 to as low as $500, These amounts include meals, airfare, and accommodation.
While students who are not from the partner high schools may still participate in these programs, they are not eligible for a needs-based scholarships or the Partner School scholarship. Summer immersion programs range from early June to early August. You can visit the Global Glimpse website for more information.
No Barriers’ Learning AFAR Program
While looking for travel programs that benefit low-income youth, I stumbled upon No Barriers USA. No Barriers is a nonprofit organization focused on delivering transformative programs to people facing various issues, such as isolation, a loss of community, mental health challenges, or fear and uncertainty. Among these programs is Learning AFAR.
Learning AFAR is a program established by No Barriers in partnership with AFAR Media. Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz, co-founders of AFAR Media, started the program with No Barriers based on their belief that the best form of education is travel.
They wanted to empower school-aged children from low-income families and neighborhoods where job and education opportunities are low but poverty and crime are high. The Learning AFAR program aims to provide an opportunity for these children to “explore their world, realize their potential, and transform their communities through their experiences.”
Under Learning AFAR is the Foster Care Program for students in foster care or who were previously part of the system, the Children of the Fallen program for children of fallen service members, and School Groups for underserved students.
About These Programs
If you qualify under the Foster Care Program, you can join a fully funded annual trip. Recipients of scholarships under this program are screened based on their financial need, academic merit and leadership potential.
Meanwhile, you can join the Children of the Fallen summer camp program if you’re a child of a fallen military personnel or first responder. It aims to develop a sense of independence while belonging to a special community and learning to carry on the legacy of your family.
Lastly, the School Groups program grants educators and students from underserved schools and districts in the US full funding for an educational travel experience abroad. You can learn more about the Learning AFAR program at the No Barriers website.
Raleigh Expedition for Your Gap Year
I found another program that may help young people looking to volunteer abroad during their gap year. The Raleigh Expedition is an international volunteering program from Raleigh International aimed at young people from across the world.
It was designed to allow the youth to undergo a mix between “experiential learning with hands-on project work, deep cultural immersion, wilderness exploration, and meaningful community engagement.” If you qualify, you will be able to visit either Costa Rica or Nepal for a period of 4, 5, 6, 7, or 10 weeks.
Depending on the duration of your volunteer work, you will experience at least two of the three projects under the program.
The Community Project focuses on helping a community improve their access to education or water and sanitation facilities while the Environmental Project is concerned with protecting vulnerable environments. Lastly, the Adventure Leadership Trek builds resilience and teamwork skills.
Expedition Bursary Fund
To be honest, the program is expensive, ranging from $3,400 to $5,500. However, I discovered that disadvantaged young people may participate through the Expedition Bursary Fund.
Qualified volunteers will only need to fundraise a small portion of the total cost and Raleigh International will cover the remaining costs.
Volunteer as a Professional at VSO
This one piqued my interest as I do not qualify for the two previous programs, which were more youth-oriented. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), a not-for-profit organization charity focusing on international development through volunteering.
If you’re a professional looking to travel while helping marginalized people in other countries, this program may be the one for you. Volunteer professionals will have the opportunity to work in various countries across Africa and Asia, where VSO has been doing work for more than 60 years.
VSO is looking for skilled professionals from different backgrounds and sectors, including medical and healthcare, agriculture and natural resources, community and social work, and teaching and education.
I learned that the minimum requirement for a volunteer professional is a degree or equivalent in a related field for the position VSO is recruiting for and at least three years of relevant experience in the profession. All applicants will be assessed based on individual skills, qualifications, and experience.
Support to Expect
If you decide to become a VSO volunteer professional, you can expect a ton of support from the organization. Prior to and during your time as a volunteer, you will receive comprehensive training for the work that you’ll do. VSO will also pay for your travel, vaccinations, expenses, and accommodation.
I liked that comprehensive medical insurance and dedicated medical and security support is also provided so I won’t have to worry about my health and safety. Volunteers will also receive a reasonable local living allowance.
What I liked the most about the program is how VSO will help you settle back into life after your time as a volunteer with the organization. Visit their website to find more information about this program.
Peace Corps Response Program
If you’re an experienced professional like me who doesn’t have the budget to travel abroad, the Peace Corps presents an opportunity for you. With its Response Volunteer program, not only can you take a trip abroad but you can also share your skills for the betterment of a local community abroad.
Peace Corps Response is suited for people who want to travel while doing volunteer work for several months. It’s not a very short program since it may take between three to 12 months depending on your assignment but it’s not as long as a regular Peace Corps Volunteer which takes 27 months.
To become a Peace Corps Response volunteer, you must at least have a four-year undergraduate degree and two to five years of professional experience.
Depending on your qualifications, you may be assigned to one of six sectors, namely agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, or youth in development.
Benefits Received by Peace Corps Response Volunteers
Unlike other volunteer work where you shoulder the cost of your own airfare, I like how the Peace Corps handles all transportation expenses to and from the country of service. As a volunteer, you will also receive a settling-in and living allowance, as well as medical care coverage.
Volunteers also get two vacation days per month of service. Aside from the living allowance, you will also get a readjustment allowance of $475 for each month of service. Upon completion of your volunteer service, you will also have the option of converting your return plane ticket into a travel stipend if you want to explore the country more.
If you successfully complete at least 12 months of service within a 24-month period, you will be eligible for the Coverdell Fellows program which helps returned volunteers attend graduate school. You will also be granted a non-competitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government.
The Bottom Line
When I began my search for travel programs for low-income individuals, what I initially thought of traveling as a vacation. However, as I dug deeper into these volunteer programs, it dawned to me that traveling overseas to do volunteer work is actually a nobler reason to take on trips.
Not only do these programs help people with little to no budget be able to travel abroad, but they also allow them to make a difference in other people’s lives.