Volunteering can be rewarding, gratifying, eye-opening. But deciding where to volunteer can be nothing short of challenging. The questions are many: Where would you like to go? What type of work do you want to do? Whom would you like to work with? What should your expectations be?
Check out these three international volunteer opportunities that can help make the world a better place for animals that are in the midst of a crisis, suffering abuse, or even perhaps facing extinction.
1. Thailand Elephant Sanctuary
Elephants have long held a special place in Thai culture, as evidenced by pachyderm representations in everything from works of art to textile patterns. Despite the reverence for these gentle mammals, Thailand has earned a reputation for treating captive elephants in a heinous manner. Many elephants are captured at birth and subjected to a life of cruel and unethical treatment that is viewed as a means of making a profit.
Today, several sanctuaries and parks exist in Thailand where previously captive and working animals are brought for rehabilitation. The Wildlife Friends Foundation runs programs where volunteers can help abused elephants at the Elephant Refuge and Education Center near Bangkok. The Global Vision International (GVI) program in Chiang Mai works to help rehabilitate elephants previously used, and abused, in the tourism industry.
2. Marine Conservation Efforts In Mexico
Mexico is surrounded by a huge amount of ocean — 5,800 miles of coastline that includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as well as the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. Together, those waters lay claim to the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, the Great Mayan Reef, as well as many endangered species of sea creatures.
GVI offers a volunteer program designed to help secure the future of the local coral reefs. Other projects, such as the one offered by Projects Abroad, focus on crocodile and turtle conservation.
3. Plant And Animal Protection In Costa Rica
Although small in size, Costa Rica accounts for an estimated 4 percent of the planet’s species. Within its borders, countless species of plants and animals live and thrive, many of which are endemic to Costa Rica and not found anywhere else in the world.
GVI has numerous projects in place where volunteers are needed, including jaguar conservation, biodiversity conservation, and more.