We all have a desire to make the world a better place, to leave a lasting impact. The trouble is, where do we start? There are so many needs, and it feels like one person can’t make much of a difference.
There are probably hundreds of needs around the world today. We have done some research and found what we believe to be the seven best ways to make a difference overseas this year. They are:
- Provide quality medical care
- Help stop human trafficking
- Work with refugees
- Protect and preserve the environment
- Provide food and clean water for those in need
- Educate people about nutrition
- Empower and educate young people, especially women
Each section below provides links to organizations or websites you can use to find volunteer opportunities. But this is by no means a comprehensive list. There are chances to serve with other great organizations as well.
We applaud you for wanting to make a positive impact. No matter which need you choose to help with or which organization to serve with, don’t forget to purchase travel health insurance to protect you as you serve. There are many risks involved, but we can make sure you and your loved ones are cared for in the event of an emergency.
Let’s dive in to these seven areas of need.
- Quality Medical Care
Why Quality Medical Care is Needed
It may not be surprising to hear that high-quality medical care is one of the greatest global needs at this time. The Coronavirus is still spreading throughout nearly every country in the world. There have been confirmed cases in at least 188 different countries. This pandemic is far from over.
Many countries lack the resources needed to be able to treat the amount of cases they are experiencing. Some lack the equipment or facilities while others lack enough trained staff. In many places, nurses and doctors are needed now more than ever.
But even before Covid-19, there was a vast need for quality health care help overseas. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about half of the entire world population cannot obtain essential medical services. There are three main reasons for this: availability of care, availability of quality care, and cost.
Lack of Quality Care and Prohibitive Costs
While there are still nearly 3 million deaths each year due to people not having access to health care, that number has been decreasing. Access to doctors is still difficult for some. Almost 40% of countries in the world have one doctor per 1,000 people. More trained workers are needed!
Most people have access to care now, but the care they receive may not be good quality. A report from The Lancelot Global Health Commission estimates that 5.7 million people die from poor care each year. According to WHO, only 35% of patients receive a correct diagnosis in certain countries. 35%!
But the greatest problem facing the world today regarding this issue is the cost of medical care. WHO estimates that approximately 800 million people spend at least 10% of their income on medical expenses, forcing them into poverty. Everyone living in the United States can attest to the outrageous cost of care.
Much work needs to be done as millions of children under the age of five die every year from illnesses that could have been treated or avoided.
3 Ways You Can Serve
There are many opportunities to serve people in this area. There are needs for dentists, eye doctors, nurses, surgeons, family practice doctors, and anyone else with medical experience. We recommend looking at these three organizations if you want to make a difference overseas. Click their links to learn more about the organizations and specific opportunities they may have.
Doctors Without Borders – Provides independent, impartial, and neutral medical aid to places where it is most needed.
International Medical Aid – Offers internships for shadow doctors, nurses, PAs, dentists, counselors, and nutritionists.
International Medical Relief – Provides access to health care in underserved and vulnerable communities around the world.
- Human Trafficking
What is Human Trafficking?
Very simply, human trafficking involves using force or coercion to recruit or transport someone for the purpose of exploiting them in some way. This could include selling people for prostitution, forced labor, or selling their organs. An alarming fact is that an increasing number of people are being recruited from social media and the internet.
How Vast is the Human Trafficking Problem?
Known among some people as modern-day slavery, human trafficking is a major global problem. According to Stop the Traffik, there are currently about 25 million people trapped in this form of slavery, plus an additional 15 million who are forced into marriages. Many are forced into hard labor, including sexual labor.
About 70% of those being trafficked are in the category of more vulnerable. This includes children, women, and those with a lower socio-economic status. These predators also take advantage of runaway youth, those who have recently relocated, and those with mental health concerns.
Human trafficking exists in just about every country. The Asia-Pacific region has the highest volume of cases. But even the United States has about 50,000 victims brought in to the country every year.
The damage done by human trafficking is terrible. Victims are forced to work excessive hours in horrible conditions, they are drugged and forced to have sex multiple times a day, or their organs are taken from them. This causes great physical, emotional, and psychological damage.
Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry according to Human Rights First. The good news is that many countries around the world are aware of the problem and have been taking steps to fix it.
Ways You Can Get Involved
You might ask how you can be involved. First, these slaves need rescuing. You can begin by being on the look out for signs of trafficking around you. Once the victims are rescued, they need a safe place to stay and will need all their basic needs met. They will usually have nothing with them. Eventually, they will must walk through the healing process from all of the trauma they endured.
We highly recommend working with an organization for your safety. This is a big money business, and you could be harmed or killed attempting to stop the traffickers. Organizations have the experience and resources that can prevent a disaster from happening. Here are a few organizations we recommend:
Destiny Rescue – Focused on rescuing children from sex trafficking in seven countries.
Love146 – Working to rescue children from human trafficking.
Polaris Project – Offers education and a free hotline so people can spot human trafficking and call it in immediately.
The Refugee Problem
Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country out of fear for their livelihood due to violence of some kind. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 26 million refugees in the world today, which is the most there have ever been in all of history.
In addition to those refugees, there are about 45 million internally displaced people. Meaning they are still in their own country but have been forced to leave their home and live somewhere else. When you add up all the displaced people in the world, the total population comes to almost 80 million. If they came together to form a country, it would be the 20th most populous country in the world! Another sobering statistic is that about 40% of these people are children under 18.
Where Are Refugees Coming from and Going?
The majority of refugees come from Africa and the Middle East/West Asia. The top five countries where refugees originate are:
- South Sudan
And the top five countries hosting refugees are:
As you can see, many of these host countries do not have the economic capability to adequately care for the massive numbers of refugees they are receiving. Amnesty International says 85% of refugees are hosted in developing regions.
Opportunities to Help
As you can imagine, the needs of refugees are endless. They need basic things like food, water, clothing, and shelter as refugee camps often do not have adequate resources. There is also a great need for counseling and mental health assistance since they have suffered much trauma and stress. We recommend considering serving with one of these organizations:
UNHCR – Probably the largest and most well-known agency working with refugees.
IRC – Have many opportunities all over the world.
Choose Love – Partners with local organizations to make the greatest impact.
- The Environment
The Environmental Crisis: What’s the Big Deal?
There are few issues more controversial and more important than the situation with the environment. At least in the United States, this has become a very political issue. The most helpful thing we can do is to take a step back and look at the truth about what is happening to our planet.
This crisis includes the protection of both plants and animals. The major concerns about the environment include issues like:
- Pollution – land, water, and air
- Climate change
- Loss of biodiversity
- Overpopulation/urban sprawl
There’s not space here to go deep into each of these issues, but there are plenty of helpful articles on the internet about each subject. We will just say a few words about each.
The air is being contaminated with carbon gases, and other harmful toxins. Oceans are being filled with plastics and other waste and have been victim to several oil/chemical spills, killing wildlife.
The rise in global temperatures has started causing many issues including melting ice, a change in rainfall patterns and other storms. And this could lead to loss of habitats and massive flooding.
The forests are decreasing at a disturbing rate. This is caused by illegal logging, forest fires, and the trees being legally cut down for commercial use. This means the supply of food, oxygen, and medicine for people and animals is decreasing too quickly.
Loss of Biodiversity
According to Conservation Folks, anywhere from 200 to 2000 species go extinct every year, and by the end of the century, half of all species will be facing extinction.
The United Nations predicts the global population to be 8.5 billion by 2030. This is negatively contributing to each of the four issues above. It is also causing an increase in waste that will need to be addressed.
What Can You Do?
The good news is that the awareness of these issues is growing. People are frequently talking about the environment, and more are seeing the importance of taking care of it. There are several organizations we recommend looking into if you’re looking for ways to make a difference overseas.
GoEco – Many different types of environmental volunteer opportunities all over the world.
GVI – Opportunities to learn and to go make a difference in the environment.
International Volunteer HQ – Offers many different types of volunteer programs, including for the environment.
- Global Hunger and Thirst
The Problem of Hunger and Access to Clean Water
Probably the most well-known worldwide crisis is the issue of hunger and lack of access to clean water. You have learned about it in school, heard about it on the news, and seen advertisements asking to help feed starving children.
The good news is, as awareness has increased, the number of people living in extreme poverty and going hungry are decreasing. However, it is decreasing slowly, and there is still much work to be done. Here are a few up-to-date statistics according to The Hunger Project:
- Over 820 million people are considered chronically malnourished with 90% residing in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa
- At least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces
- 785 million peoplelack a basic drinking-water service
These are sobering facts that should cause us to want to get involved. What’s the best way to help?
The Solution to Hunger and Water Being Inaccessible
What’s the best solution to fighting hunger and clean water being inaccessible? As you probably know, there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone. So why are people hungry? Primarily because of food distribution issues and environmental causes like drought and famine.
Is the best solution to donate money for food and water? While it’s important that people have access to clean water and healthy food now, that is not the best long-term solution. Billions of dollars have been sent to Africa over the years, but the problem remains.
A great solution might be sustainable agriculture. What is sustainable agriculture? According to the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, it is the “efficient production of safe, healthy, and high-quality agricultural products, in a way that is environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.”
About 40% of the people in the world make a living off agriculture. People can be trained and given the resources they need to grow nutrient-rich foods that are good for their health and the environment. They can grow more fruits and vegetables and learn how to distribute them.
For clean water, the best solution is to teach them effective sanitation methods and how to build their own wells, so they become more self-sufficient.
Here are some ways to make a difference in this area:
Rise Against Hunger – Distributes food and aid to the most vulnerable in many countries.
World Endeavors – Participate in sustainable agriculture projects around the world.
Clean Water International – Help bring safe, clean water to people who need it.
- Health/Nutrition Education
Malnutrition: How Big of a Problem is It?
Malnutrition can be caused by several different factors. One might be difficulty in accessing sufficient quantities of food, but malnutrition can also be caused by a person not eating enough healthy food or an excessive amount of unhealthy food. This can be found in both children and adults.
Why is malnutrition an important problem to solve?
- It is the leading cause of death and illness in the world
- About 150 million children under 5 have stunted growth
- 2 billion people are overweight or obese
- Almost 20 million babies have very low birth weight
The problem in underdeveloped countries is typically either a lack of food or not eating enough healthy food. Undernutrition can lead to a delay in growth and motor skills as well as susceptibility to other diseases.
But the problem in many western countries is eating too much food, especially unhealthy food. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, strokes, kidney disease, some cancers and other serious health problems.
What is the Solution to Malnutrition?
We already mentioned one solution to the shortage of food above. The primary solution to both people not eating enough healthy food or overeating is education. People need to understand the significance diet has on health and what nutrients are needed to help them be healthy.
You can make a huge impact by helping educate those at risk. What you might take for granted and think is common knowledge might help change someone’s life. Check out these different volunteer websites for many health education opportunities.
GoAbroad – Lists hundreds of health education programs with different organizations.
Go Overseas – Offers over 200 nutrition education opportunities.
Kaya – Provides several nutrition education opportunities.
- Educational Inequality
Lack of Education Around the World
Literacy rates have greatly improved over the last 50-100 years. But according to UNESCO, there are still over 770 million adults who are illiterate. And the Helpful Professor says there are 264 million youth not in school.
The great problem is educational inequality. While many countries have high literacy rates (over 95%), some countries have literacy rates below 50%. For example, Niger’s literacy rate may be less than 20%. Many people underdeveloped countries struggle to get access to quality education. For example, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are home to about 72% of all illiterate people.
There is further inequality when it comes to gender. While literacy rates are nearly identical in several countries, there are also many countries with wide gaps. Across the world, 90% of men can read while 83% of women can read–a 7% difference. But some countries, like Afghanistan, the literacy gap is 28%!
Women are often victims of educational inequalities because they are married at a young age, exploited, or are oppressed in their society.
Why is Education Essential?
It may seem obvious why education is so essential in terms of quality of life. But there are many negative effects when people receive insufficient education. They include:
- Poor health and hygiene
- Shorter lifespan
- Unemployment and poverty
- Susceptible to exploitation
- Make it more difficult to raise children
- Instability and uncertainty
A quality education not only gives people the knowledge they need to get a job and be a productive member of society, it also gives people many of the necessary skills to be successful in life. A more educated society is generally more economically developed.
Ways You Can Make A Difference through Education
SOS Children’s Villages – Provide care and empowerment to orphans and abandoned children.
United Planet – Offers many types of volunteering opportunities, including educational.
Volunteer World – Has hundreds of different educational opportunities in different locations.
You Can Make a Lasting Impact!
These are just a few of the best ways to make a difference overseas. But there are many more possibilities.
We hope you are convinced that there is much need in the world today, and you have an important role to play. You have experience, knowledge, and skills that can be used to impact the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world.
Some of these trips may take you somewhere remote, far away from the nearest medical facility that can provide quality care. So before you travel, remember to purchase travel medical insurance to protect you and give you peace of mind. That way you can put all your energy and focus into improving people’s lives. Now, go do good in the world!