Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What’s it like to volunteer with NPH?

10 Reasons to Choose Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos When Volunteering Abroad
by Carrie Daut

Maybe you’re a recent college graduate. Maybe you’re mid-career and looking for a change. Maybe you’re retired and searching for the next adventure. Whoever you are, when you’re looking to volunteer abroad, the options seem endless. They seem overwhelming. I remember. :)

I’m Carrie, and from January 2010 – January 2011, I was a volunteer at NPH Guatemala. So, what’s it like to volunteer with NPH?

NPH’s international volunteer program offers many of the same things other international volunteer programs do. Work with children. Live in a developing country. Improve your Spanish or French. Teach English.

But NPH is also unique among volunteer abroad programs, and I promise you this: you’ll be hard-pressed to find an organization with the same affordability, support system and sense of family as NPH.

What makes the NPH international volunteer program so unique?

1. There is no fee. You pay nothing to volunteer. (Okay, so you pay to get yourself there and back. And you pay 35 bucks to process your background check. But that’s it.) Zero. Nada. Zilch.

2. NPH pays you. All volunteers receive a monthly stipend, which varies by home (usually $50 - $100 per month). I know it doesn’t sound like much, but when a nice Guatemalan hotel room only costs $8 a night and a 3-hour bus ride only costs $3, you’ll be surprised at just how far $50 can get you.

3. You get free housing and 3 free meals a day. That stipend now feels like a whole lot more, doesn’t it? :)

4. It’s a one-year commitment (or you can extend). A year is long enough to become fully immersed in NPH life but less intense than, for example, the Peace Corps.

5. Professional volunteer positions. If you want to teach English, that’s awesome. NPH certainly needs English teachers. But they also need physical therapists, psychologists, communications people (that’s what I did!), clinic staff, childcare workers, etc. with expert training in their field. A year abroad doesn’t have to mean putting your career calling on hold.

6. Options within the program. Each of the 9 NPH homes is different. Some have as many as 800 children and 25 volunteers; others have as few as 90 children and 4 volunteers. Some are located near tourist towns; others are extremely isolated. Some have hot water, washing machines and wireless internet, while others don’t. As a volunteer, you choose your experience.

7. Vacation. (I had 4 weeks of it at NPH Guatemala, allowing me to travel to Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and all over Guatemala.) What other job is going to give a 24 year-old 4 weeks paid vacation?

8. Free access to healthcare. All NPH homes have onsite clinics. From minor colds to broken bones, volunteers have trusted medical access where they live.

9. Support systems both in-country and at home. The NPH program is extremely established, supporting volunteers before, during and after their service. Before you leave, Friends of the Orphans helps with packing lists, what to expect, and arranging language school. While you’re there, your in-country Volunteer Coordinator points out the market, where to get a cell phone, and how to use public transportation. They’ll also organize volunteer retreats and ask for your feedback on the volunteer program. When you return, Friends provides follow-up support and checks in to see how you’re adjusting.

10. A built-in community, or better yet, a family. NPH volunteers live onsite at the homes, surrounded by dozens – more likely hundreds – of kids, staff and fellow volunteers. Through the good, bad, terrifying, exhilarating and touching moments, you are never in your volunteer experience alone. There’s a phrase we use at NPH: Somos una gran familia. We are all one giant family.

So if you’re ready to volunteer with NPH, get to it! (Or if you know someone else who’s looking to volunteer, send them this list right now!)

Visit the Friends of the Orphans website for more details on the international volunteer program. And one last question: just what are you waiting for?

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