One of the reasons we are so dedicated to volunteer work is because it reminds us of our place on the planet. As of June 2018, there are 7.6 billion people in the world – that’s 7.6 billion stories to discover and share. Volunteering keeps us grounded. We find that after committing ourselves to care for others, we stress less about minute worries and dramas, as we have a new perspective to help us contextualize them.
Stargazing is kind of like that. Nothing makes us feel as limitless as staring up into the black mass of space. When we watch the universe breathe, we are able to realize our position in it.
A lot of volunteers travel to discover themselves; finding new terrain alongside themselves. We recommend the countries below for those who want to soul-search among the stars.
The Namib Desert has been described as looking ‘Martian’, and with its rust-red sand dunes and its stark white salt pans, it’s obvious where the comparison comes from. The clue is in the name, as Namib means ‘vast place’ in the Khoekhoe language. This coastal desert is so secluded that it has non-existent levels of light pollution. The Namibian skies are so clear and bright that there’s no need to pack a telescope – which means more space for books and chocolate!
Generation of African Intellectual is a non-profit that advocates for equal access to education in Namibia’s most rural communities. Volunteers work at local schoolhouses and from the home office to bring extensive educational opportunities to Namibian children. The organization also manages a project of fixing broken tables and chairs for schools with limited financial resources.
The Atacama Desert in Chile is famous for its breathtaking and expansive scope. Stargazers from across the globe travel to this South American location to witness its astral wonders. The Atacama Desert is a 600-mile-long plateau along the Chilean Pacific coast. Though most of Chile functions on low levels of light pollution due to its scattered population, the Atacama Desert’s blessed distance from towns and cities adds to its model altitude and climate to make it the perfect place for budding astronomers. The Desert also houses ALMA, which is the world’s largest professional astronomical project!
Though the Atacama Desert might be Chile’s most well-known astrotourist attraction, we also recommend that star seekers check out Illapel, the Antofagasta Desert, and Torres del Paine. As Chile has just 63 people per mile, there are few places where the night skies won’t be flushed with stars.
Similar to its plethora of stargazing spots, Chile has a wide range of volunteering opportunities. Check out a few of our favorites below!
The English Open Doors Program is supported by the United Nations Development Program and the Chilean Ministry of Education. It aims to increase the English proficiency of Chilean students and teachers, which will in-turn aid in furthering Chile’s continued development. An exciting and important part of this initiative is the integration of native and near-native English speakers in Chilean public schools, in order to develop the listening and speaking skills of teenage Chileans as well as encourage cultural exchange.
Save the Wild Chinchillas is a conservation organization that seeks to restore the ideal environment of the endangered Chilean chinchillas, while also deterring further habitat degradation. Their main objectives are to educate and involve people worldwide, and to promote habitat regeneration and conservation, creating a solid global knowledge base.
To volunteer in Nepal is to win bingo on the travel scorecard. There’s the infamous Everest region, with its dramatic mounts and secluded settlements, and the local wildlife, which ranges from one-horned rhinos to Bengal tigers… and then there are the night skies. Imagine watching the movements of the universe from the highest peak on our peak, a fathomless altitude of 3,300 m to 8,848 m, the darkness of the unpolluted night a stark contrast against Everest’s snow-topped peaks. Not to mention the gorgeous Auroras, which announce the appearance of the stars in the winter months…
EHN Nepal works to improve the level of education, healthcare, and childcare in Nepal by connecting international volunteers to teaching positions in rural and urban areas alike. Volunteers live with host families throughout the duration in order to facilitate cultural exchange. Located in Kathmandu, volunteers are able to access incredible historical Nepalese landmarks, such as the Pashupatinath Temple and Kathmandu Durbar Square.
To volunteer abroad is to get a two-for-one deal. There are the awe-inspiring life lessons and stories garnered from volunteering, as well as the gorgeous locations and experiences of cultural exchange. We hope that these opportunities help make this summer that bit more meaningful; that memories are made, and breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime moments take place.
Written by: Natalia Gutman, a Comparative Literature student at Queen Mary University of London and current intern at GivingWay.