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Already living and working abroad

While most international volunteers travel abroad specifically to get involved, there are also thousands of individuals around the world already living and working in another country. Whether they are the employees of large multinational corporations, staff members of international NGOs, or even the family members or partners of employees living abroad, the common thread they share is that they are all potential volunteers living in foreign communities.

If you are already living and working abroad, here are some tips to get started as a volunteer in your present community:

Volunteer via your employer

Many large companies and organizations offer employee engagement programs to help facilitate community involvement. Check with your or your partner's employer to learn more about any types of volunteer engagement projects and opportunities they coordinate specifically for their employees. And if they don't have an employee engagement program, encourage them to start one: employee engagement not only helps to demonstrate investment in the country and generate positive visibility for the company or organization, but also connects employees to their local community and provides them with unique opportunities for morale building and skill development.

Find your own volunteer opportunity

Spend some time thinking about what motivates you, what you'd like to contribute to your host community, and what you'd like to gain from the experience; then start searching for the right opportunity. Begin by asking local friends, neighbors, and fellow expatriates—where do they volunteer? What organizations do they know and trust? Keep in mind that in many parts of the world, people talk about doing good in their community less as "volunteering" and more as simply helping.

Next, talk to community-focused organizations like civic clubs (e.g. Rotary International), places of worship, and local branches or affiliates of international organization with which you're already familiar (e.g. Red Cross/Red Crescent). See if they might have opportunities to volunteer that match your interests and motivations. You might also find out if there is a volunteer center for your local community (especially if you live in a larger urban area); these centers will often have volunteer opportunity postings from a multitude of local organizations. Many countries also have national volunteerism organizations that operate searchable databases of in-country opportunities.

Lastly, go online and search volunteer opportunity databases like the one here on Idealist.org; you can browse by country or search by keywords, area of focus, location, dates, skills or language needed, and other criteria.

Create your own volunteer opportunity

Finally, if you just can't find an existing volunteer opportunity that fits your interests, availability, and skills, don't be afraid to make up your own. Focus your research less on finding the volunteer position and more on finding the right organization—one place to search is here on Idealist. Then spend your time learning about their mission and activities and come up with a plan or project for how you can assist them as a volunteer. Run it by them and be prepared that not all organizations have the capacity to take you on; after all, they don't know you yet and just may not have the time or interest to give your idea a try. However, if you keep looking, chances are you'll find a good fit somewhere.