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Which ILP Humanitarian Program Is Right For Me?

Posted by Jen King on 2/15/24 6:10 AM

Teach English Abroad

Did you know ILP has Humanitarian Programs all over the world? 

Looking for ways to give back in more than a few countries? ILP has Humanitarian Programs all over the world in Africa, Europe, the South Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. With amazing places to choose from it can be hard to decide which is right for you! But don't worry — we can help with that. 

Still deciding where you'd like to go?
Even if you aren't exactly sure you can start your application


Each location is a bit different with unique needs. Keep reading to learn a bit more about each country and what opportunities you will have as you volunteer with International Language Programs (ILP).  

The Dominican Republic

If you're dreaming about living on an island destination while giving back to the locals, the DR could be a great fit for you.

More time with the kids

ILP volunteers will be living in a local neighborhood, getting an authentic look at the culture for a few months. You'll be helping kids learn English, many of whom live nearby. You can hardly walk down one block before seeing one of the kids run up to hug you. That's a unique perk to this program — if you want to have extra time with the kids outside of class, this is the place.

The kids are so cute and truly will be your favorite part (though they can be little stinkers some days!). They adore you and love to spend time with you.  The area the children live in is highly impoverished which means there are not many resources for the kids. Teaching them English is giving them a great tool they would otherwise not have. English will help them throughout their lives. 

Big volunteer group

Another unique part of this program is that it has our biggest group sizes with around 25-30 people living together in a big house. Yep, that's a lot of people in one house! It's a sleepover every night with so many opportunities to make new friends. 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.

Live close to the beach

You'll be living along the northern coast with destination-worthy beaches just 20-30 minutes away. Most people picture lounging on white sandy beaches and snorkeling through Caribbean blue waters here. Yes, you will have that during your volunteer trip to the DR, but there is an impoverished side of this country just beyond the coastline full of resorts that tourists never see.

The Dominican Republic is a poor country. 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. The WiFi is slow, the power goes out sometimes, and there are fans instead of air conditioning in most places.

Learn more about volunteering in the Dominican Republic here.

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The only location where teaching English isn't part of the service

If you love kids and want to make a difference, but teaching just doesn't sound appealing to you ... then this spot just might be a perfect fit.

Romania is unique in the sense that you are not teaching English classes like you would be in every other ILP program.

In Romania, you will be volunteering with the orphanage program to work one-on-one with kids who don't have families who can care for them. The ultimate goal here is to help the children be adopted, and as part of that goal, the program helps to support families by offering respite care. That means we also spend time with children who have families to give them a small break. It gives the parents time to run errands and take care of the things they need to do.

Work with kids who have severe disabilities

Many children in the orphanage program cannot be adopted because of their mental or physical disabilities. You will be working with them individually throughout the semester on little goals you set to help them grow and succeed. The goals may be simple like learning how to use a spoon, or how to crawl or sit up. You will be giving them the love and attention like a parent would.  These things may seem small, but the impact that individual attention can have on a child is significant and those simple things will benefit them greatly in the long run.

Serving in the orphanage program will change your life and open your eyes in many, many ways. You're love will grow deeper every day as you work with the kids and you will learn incredible things from them. Volunteering here can be tiring mentally and physically, but the quiet little moments and sweet kids are so worth it.

Travel around Europe

As with all ILP locations, when you are not volunteering you have time to travel! One perk of Europe is that it's so easy to travel from country to country, checking off those bucket list places you have always wanted to visit like France, Greece, and Italy (just for starters). But don't forget about spending time in Romania too. We're obsessed with the hidden gems here that most travelers don't know about ... everything from the castles to the Baltic Sea.

Learn more about volunteering in Romania here.

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Costa Rica 

Outdoor adventures

If you're into adventures but also want to give back, Costa Rica is the place for you. This country is known for all of its biodiversity. There's no shortage of national parks sitting right on the coastline. It's easy to pack in a jungle adventure, with monkeys and sloths hanging overhead, before going to the beach for a snorkel adventure. We love Costa Rica for swimming in waterfalls, walking over hanging bridges in the cloud forest, surfing, and white water rafting.

Visiting nearby countries

There's also the possibility of exploring some popular destinations outside of Costa Rica. Volunteers have loved vacations to Bocas del Toro (Panama), Nicaragua, and even Peru.

Teaching kids from a variety of backgrounds

The Humanitarian program here is a little bit different. Like all the ILP programs, you'll be able to give back to the community by providing an English education to children who wouldn't be able to afford it ... but because of the way Costa Rica's economy is set up, the children you will be teaching don't typically come from the same level of high poverty or rough upbringing as children in other ILP Humanitarian locations. 

Costa Rica is built on agriculture but is also 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 who grew up on the agricultural side or children of expats whose parents can't afford the expensive tuition of private schools. 

However, that doesn't change the service you'll be providing: English lessons for children who couldn't thrive without that skill. Since Costa Rica depends so heavily on tourism, being able to speak English is an invaluable skill for any child looking to keep up with the country's economy.  

Costa Rica might be nestled right in the middle of Central America, but due to the tourism and expat life, the lifestyle in Costa Rica is higher here than in other countries in Central America, yet there are still pockets where locals deal with stark humanitarian issues. Volunteers living here will be able to experience that divide firsthand.

Learn more about volunteering in Costa Rica here.

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Dive right into the local culture by teaching English to a struggling neighborhood during the week, but still have time to explore volcanoes, islands, and waterfalls in the jungle.

Make a big impact

Nicaragua is one of the most impoverished countries in the Western Hemisphere. The culture here is friendly, vibrant, and happy, but people are also struggling. Like the DR, you will probably have students from rough backgrounds. They live in poverty with homes that are propped up by tin roofs and often have no running water. 

Our program here is locally operated by a Nicaraguan who has had opportunities in life (and has even lived in the US) and has a passion for paying it forward to the kids. 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. 

Not only will attending ILP classes help open doors for their future, but the time you spend with the kids is beneficial for them right now. It gives the kids a way to fill their time after school with positive role models.

A hidden gem

When you think of Costa Rica, you're probably picturing those dense jungles and beautiful beaches and monkeys ... but did you know their neighbor to the north offers very similar adventures? 

Nicaragua is somehow still that undiscovered gem of Central America. But we're shouting from the rooftops about all it has to offer. It's one of the programs where we have volunteers coming home and raving about it the most. There's a whole coastline of beaches where you can surf, release baby sea turtles, and lounge in hammocks. There are Caribbean islands with palm trees and perfect, white sand. You can go volcano boarding and wander cities with the most colorful architecture and towering churches. Take boat rides in lagoons to feed monkeys who run across your boat to grab your offering of bananas. Come hang out at waterfalls deep in the countryside — jump in and go for a swim or zipline across the top. 

If seeing more than one country is on your wishlist for the semester, you can also visit places like Costa Rica, Panama, and Peru during your vacation time.

Laid back and affordable

While tourism has raised the prices of just about everything in Costa Rica, Nicaragua is still the cheap, off-the-beaten-path type of backpacker's experience. Surf lessons in Nicaragua are going to cost you half as much as they would in Costa Rica. You get the best of both worlds with all the laidback adventure of the Latin American culture but at a reduced price. 

Learn more about volunteering in Nicaragua here.

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Live near the coast

Like the Dominican Republic, this program also gets you living right by the coast. It's not Caribbean waters here, but there are sandy beaches. You can even spot animals who live here like penguins, flamingos, and seals. You're just about a 20 minute drive from one of Peru's national reserves which hugs the coastline and offers so many adventures.

A well-traveled country

Similar to Costa Rica, Peru has been a popular destination for travelers all over the world for many years now. With the many travelers coming through, the country has adapted in order to make Peru more welcoming and easier to navigate. Tours are very common here which makes travel in Peru so convenient.

Cheap flights and tour buses make it easy to get around to all the different adventures here. Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, so you'll want to visit just about every corner to see it all — everything from desert sand dunes to cold mountain peaks and the dense Amazon jungle.

See more than one country

If you're hoping to see more than just Peru during your semester, that's possible here. You're welcome to head north to visit countries like Costa Rica and Nicaragua, or explore more of South America. A trip to Chile to visit Patagonia is a bucketlist vacation for sure, or we're big fans of Iguazu Falls which sits on the border of Argentina and Brazil.

Learn more about volunteering in Peru here.

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

Help reduce the school dropout problem

Just like with other ILP Humanitarian programs, you'll be teaching English to kids who come from families with very little means. But there is a problem in Uganda that makes speaking English even more important.

Uganda has several main languages, one of which is English which is used to unify over 100 local languages. Children typically come from families where English is not spoken in the home, then they 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 speak. It's a big part of why Uganda has such a high dropout rate. We want to help kids before that happens. 

The goal of ILP classes is to help kindergarten-age students (about 3-7 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.

Additional service opportunities

This program is also unique because there are more ways to get involved outside of the classroom.

Volunteers will also be able to help their community in their free time with clean water projects. You'll meet a man named Eddie who's had an enormous impact in Uganda by building wells and springs so thousands of people can have access to clean water. 

Outside of that organized service project of building a spring, we've seen volunteers find even more ways to give back. You may have opportunities to do things like spend time with those living in an elderly home or by organizing fundraising projects. Learn more about special service projects here. 

Bucketlist adventures

Hello safaris! Go on a true African safari, the kind of vacation that some only dream of. You can spot lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, hippos, and so many more. Animals are really a highlight of the trip. You can even go trekking to see chimpanzees and rhinos living in a protected sanctuary too.

But there's more than the classic safari. We love hiking to waterfalls, spending the night at the top just to wake up at sunrise and rapel down the falls. We love relaxing at lakes and staying at lodges right on the water. 

You're welcome to knock other approved countries off your bucketlist too. Volunteers have gone on safari in Kenya too. One of our favorites is flying over to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania where you can snorkel, swim with whale sharks, paddleboard, kayak, and so much more. 

Learn more about volunteering in Uganda here.

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If you're looking for a tight-knit community you'll instantly be a part of, come volunteer in this island country. 

Volunteers are living in Efate, one of the most well-known islands in this secret country of Vanuatu! There are more than enough adventures to keep you busy here ... we think you'll instantly love the turquoise swimming holes, waterfalls, and snorkel trips (not to mention the beaches). But we love how you're helping here even more than all of the island excursions.

Help kids in school now + open doors for the future

One of the main languages of the country is Bislama, a Creole language based in English with a touch of French. Bislama’s an important part of the culture, but there is also quite a bit of English on the island, too.

Since both 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? However, there’s another little twist. Many of the kids don’t speak Bislama or much English, because they speak one of the dozens of local languages and dialects at home, which makes classes in both languages hard to follow. 

Learning English is where ILP comes in. You'll be teaching in an afterschool program for kids who are around the age of 3-6 years old and potentially some students up to third grade. Here the kids can learn to become naturally fluent in English before it's essential for success in school. Unfortunately, there’s a high dropout rate in Vanuatu. While that’s caused by a handful of factors, hopefully giving kids this foundation in English will help decrease the high dropout rate that tends to occur when kids fall behind in English classes. 

And because Efate is such a small island, education resources are quite limited. There's a need for more teachers here. On top of that, if they want to pursue education beyond high school, students would need to move to nearby nations like Australia and New Zealand where it's absolutely critical that they speak English fluently to be successful. The classes you're teaching now will give them a skill that will benefit them for years to come.

A challenging adventure

Vanuatu is a little island with few resources. They're often hit by heavy storms that keep locals in the cycle of poverty. It's true island life here, which sounds like a dream ... but it also comes with challenges. Bugs, humidity with no A/C, and cyclones are just a few of the things you'll run into.

For our Vanuatu program, we are looking for flexible, positive, easygoing volunteers who want the biggest adventure and can embrace the ups and downs of living abroad. This program really does come with a lot to handle, but with a very tight-knit local community that we're hoping becomes just like family to you.

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Still not sure where you want to go?

That's okay! Talk to a representative in the office who has volunteered with ILP and ask them about their experiences during their semester living abroad! 

 Text Me! I've Got Questions


Topics: Central America, Europe, All About ILP + Volunteering, Caribbean, Africa, South Pacific, South America

Hey friends!

We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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