Conservation Volunteer in Peru; Photo Courtesy of Projects Abroad.

Conservation Volunteer in Peru; Photo Courtesy of Projects Abroad.

Is your high school student itching to see the world and interested in making a difference? Each summer, Projects Abroad, an international volunteer organization, sends hundreds of teenage volunteers abroad to participate in its High School Specials. High School Specials are group service trips that have been designed specifically for teenagers to participate in worthwhile voluntary work for two or four weeks over the summer.

After college, I wanted to join the Peace Corps. Somehow I was persuaded to start a full time career with a 401K so I scrapped that idea. I don’t have a lot of regrets in life but had I known someone who had participated in the Peace Corps at that time, it’s very likely that I would have made a different decision.

One of the reasons Projects Abroad appeals to me is that it has a wide variety of projects available in a number of developing countries. Teenagers can get involved in environmental conservation work, public health campaigns, child and animal care or human rights initiatives. It’s like a mini Peace Corps but long enough for them to enjoy the experience and provide meaningful contribution to a program.

Just as important as the scheduled sessions and service work are the evening activities and weekend excursions which provides the volunteers with the opportunity to get to know other volunteers their own age from different countries and cultures and to taste local foods unlike their own at home. The structure is ideal for first-time travelers eager to broaden their horizons and make a difference abroad.

It will be difficult for teens to return home without seeing the world through a larger global lens.

This year, Projects Abroad is introducing two new High School Special projects: Public Health in Tanzania and Care and Panda Protection in China. They have also introduced new dates for its popular project: Medicine in Ghana.

Medicine in Ghana

Medicine in Ghana gives volunteers the opportunity to enhance their medical knowledge by observing qualified medical staff in hospitals and clinics, and gain some practical experience by working on a community outreach program. Under the guidance of doctors or nurses, volunteers can get involved in dressing wounds, carrying out health checks, giving malaria tests, and making presentations on common health issues.

Public Health in Tanzania
For volunteers interested in the community outreach aspects of its Medicine & Healthcare programs, Projects Abroad offers a specialized Public Health project. Volunteers support rural communities by conducting basic health checks, leading educational health campaigns and helping doctors diagnose and treat patients. For many people in Tanzania, medical treatment is extremely limited. These medical outreach programs are vital when it comes to ensuring that people receive the treatment and medical attention that they need.

Care & Panda Protection in China
Volunteers in the rapidly changing country of China devote their time to caring for children in care centers and working with an endangered species. During this two-week program, the first week is spent at a busy care center in the thriving city of Chengdu and the other week at the Bifengxia Panda Base. At the care center, volunteers play games with the children, help with basic education and share their own culture and new ideas with staff and children. At the Bifengxia Panda Base, volunteers help with preparing food for pandas, cleaning out enclosures, and observing panda behavior.

Projects Abroad has over 50 High School Special programs in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

My children are still too young to take advantage of Projects Abroad but it’s something we’ll be discussing when they get there. In the meantime, I need to figure out how I can fit myself into one of their suitcases so I can tag along.