Which Humanitarian Program Is Right For Me?

The focus of the Humanitarian program is serving children who come from homes with very limited means. The volunteer work that you do here will be completely free of charge for them; this makes the program fee higher than the Exchange program because the families are not subsidizing your costs.

Each country within the Humanitarian program has its own unique needs and so the service you provide is also unique; for example, in some areas you will be working with orphans while in other areas the children have families, but they may live in a home where getting basic needs met is difficult. Let’s check out each of the programs.

uganda

If you have been wanting a way to help both in and outside of the classroom, Uganda is the place for you.

This humanitarian program is similar in a lot of ways to our other programs, with some distinctive differences. Volunteers will be teaching English to children with limited means, in a country that’s struggling in more ways than one. One distinctive difference is how an English education will benefit the children you teach. Uganda has several main languages, one of which is English which is used to unify over 100 local languages that are spoken. Public schools are held in English, but children typically come from families where English is not spoken in the home, then to head to school to sit through lessons and take tests in English — a language they don’t understand.

Think about having your first day of school and sitting through a math lesson and a test in a language you don’t understand. Many children get behind and even drop out. We want to help before that happens. The goal of ILP classes is to help kindergarten-age students (about 3-6 years old) speak naturally so that they’re better prepared to do well in school and have better English later in life. All ILP programs help children learn a skill that will benefit them in the future, but in Uganda, English is a skill that’s needed now while they’re young.

Volunteers will also be able to help out with several other projects in their free time doing things like spending time with babies who have been abandoned, teaching hygiene classes, visiting elderly, and more. We’re especially passionate about building springs; in Uganda most families do not have water at home, so the children are often sent out to collect water in large jugs each day. Families are forced to make due with what’s available, which is often standing water that collect in ponds and this leads to great health problems. We have teamed up with a local who has been building springs throughout Uganda and Rwanda to combat this problem — each spring provides natural, clean drinking water that flows 24/7 and can support thousands of families in the area.  Each semester ILP volunteers will have the opportunity to help build a spring or two like this. Building springs often means you’ll get to meet local families who will benefit from it and is an incredibly rewarding experience as you’ll see the project from start to finish and see the immediate affects of your hard work.

Program Fee: $5,470

romania

If you really want to make a difference and love kids, but teaching isn’t your thing then Romania may be perfect for you! This humanitarian program is very unique because it’s our only location where you will not be teaching English lessons. In Romania you will help in our orphanage program.

The kids you work with here have shelter, food, and everything they need to live. What they lack is enough people who have time to provide them with one-on-one interactions where they would learn simple things such as how to stand up, turn the pages in a picture book, or kick a ball. They need the direct support a parent might have been able to give as they progress both physically and emotionally.

In addition to learning basic skills, many of the children you work with have severe disabilities. For a child who can’t hear or see, you holding and hugging them may be the only interaction that they have. For a child who can’t walk, you taking them out to the playground may be the only time they feel the breeze or the sunshine. What you’ll do takes a lot of patience, effort, and can be challenging at times. Some of these children have real difficulties in life that you won’t be able to fix, but you’ll be able to make life for them a little bit more enjoyable because of your care and service.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to support and help orphans who are preparing for adoption. As part of their progression, orphans will live in an apartment setting and become more familiar with what life will be like in a family setting (which is very different from what they’re been used to). Work with these kids as they learn to become more independent, comfortable in social settings, and more prepared for a new chapter of their life.

Program Fee: $5,470

haiti

This is the only location where you’ll actually get to live with many of your students! Here you live and teach at an orphanage that was established following the major earthquake disaster of 2010. Living with the kids brings a big family atmosphere and you get to spend much more time with your students than you would have in other ILP locations. You have an opportunity to build really strong relationships here. This works really well if the main reason you want to volunteer abroad is because of the kids! You’ll also get to teach many children from homes in the local neighborhood.

Because Haiti’s economy isn’t built well for travel and exploring, volunteers spend much of their free time hanging out at the orphanage compound where they all love having dance parties in the courtyard and playing games with the kids. If you think you’d rather spend your free time away from the kids and be able to explore more of the city (we totally understand that) then Haiti might not be the right spot for you.

The kids are sweet and full of personality. They are eager to learn and incredibly fun to be with. It’s incredible to watch how quickly they’ve been learning English since the volunteers arrived (likely because they spend more than the typical 20 hours per week together). This allows you to speak more fluently with most of the kids, which is an added bonus. They’ll steal your heart quicker than you can imagine!

Program Fee: $3,720

nicaragua

This humanitarian program is similar to the ILP programs in the Caribbean: Nicaragua is the second most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere behind Haiti. The people here are welcoming, vibrant and happy, but are struggling. You will probably have students from rough backgrounds, coming from poverty and homes that are propped up by tin roofs with no running water, but you’ll see their eagerness to learn and be part of your classes.  Sort of similar to Haiti, you’ll be living very close to the neighborhood where your students will live — in fact, your walk to school is along a dirt road through that neighborhood so you’ll really be able to connect with the community and get closer to your students and their families. As you walk through the neighborhoods you’ll often have kids running up to you wanting to say hello! They recognize you as a teacher and are so excited to spend more time with you.

Nicaragua’s growing tourism means that an English education is really invaluable, especially for these children who would never be able to pay for the classes you’ll be providing. Nicaragua is the undiscovered gem! The landscape and adventures are very similar to Costa Rica, but without the higher tourist prices.

Program Fee: $3,720

vanuatu

Similar to the Uganda program, you’ll be teaching English to young kids to give them a head start with the language. Bislama is the main language on this island nation, but there’s also quite a bit of English. Because English and Bislama are spoken in Vanuatu, classes are taught in both … but there’s a catch. Until 3rd grade, kids have classes in Bislama, then things switch to English. Can you imagine having classes in one language, then suddenly switching around 10 years old?  This tends to contribute to a higher drop-out rate where some kids simply fall behind. ILP volunteers will be helping give these students a head start to speaking English, an invaluable skill that they will use not only in their elementary education, but also for anyone looking to attend higher education in countries like Australia, or to stay in Vanuatu to help the growing tourism industry.

There’s also a severe teacher shortage across the country.  All over the islands, there are stories of a single teacher who’s in charge of three or four full rooms of students of all different ages. This teacher spends each day running between four rooms, teaching for a few minutes before dashing to the next room, and teaching for a few minutes there.  Because ILP volunteers focus on smaller groups, students get more individual time with a teacher, which is not only unique, but incredibly valuable to these kids.

Similar to a few of our programs, you’ll be living right in the neighborhood you’re teaching in.  You’ll frequently see your students and other neighborhood kids running around, wanting to play with you. They’ll recognize you as a teacher and a member of the big, family-like community found in the village you live in.

Program Fee: $4,320

costa rica

Costa Rica is heavily supported by an enormous expat community and tourism. The education system here reflects that; there are public schools that cater towards lower to mid-income families and private schools that cater to the upper end of the income scale. That means the students you will be teaching might be local kids or children of expats whose parents can’t afford the expensive tuition of the private schools; they don’t typically come from the same level of poverty as children in other ILP humanitarian locations.

However, that doesn’t change the service you’ll be providing. Since Costa Rica depends so heavily on tourism, being able to speak English naturally is an invaluable skill for any child once they grow and seek job opportunities.

Costa Rica might be nestled right in the middle of Central America, but due to the tourism and expat life, lifestyle in Costa Rica is higher here than neighboring countries, yet there are still pockets where locals deal with stark humanitarian issues, like small homes with basic amenities (if any). Because of booming tourism, adventures in Costa Rica are typically more expensive than your neighbor ILP program in Nicaragua.

Program fee: $3,720

the dominican republic

Most people first think of relaxing on beaches with Caribbean blue waters and yes, you will have that during your semester abroad. You get to live in a huge tourist destination, but you’ll also go beyond that and truly experience the culture and lifestyle that only the locals see.

As an ILP volunteer you’re provided with housing that is considered very nice compared to your neighbors, but it will likely leave you feeling grateful for the luxuries you’re used to at home. One of our biggest ILP groups lives together here in a large house. It’s a big slumber party and you’ll likely be sharing your room with several other people. If you’re not that worried about having privacy and want to make a lot of new friends, the DR would be good for you.

The kids truly will be your favorite part (though they can be little stinkers some days!). They adore you and will often be playing in the street outside your house, eager to spend time with you.  The neighborhood is highly impoverished which means there are not many resources for the kids. Teaching them English is giving them a great tool they would other otherwise not have. English will help them throughout their lives, especially in such a touristic country.

Program fee: $3,720