The Caribbean comprises several islands and Archipelagos in the western Atlantic. Among them are such popular destinations as the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica and Cuba. Their names awaken longings in us, as they stand for an exotic vacation as if from a travel catalog. Automatically we think of palm trees, white sand, turquoise-blue water, jungle or charming cities.
But what about the population and the environment?? Of course there are differences between the islands. Unfortunately, it is a fact that many inhabitants of the Caribbean live in poverty. Access to good education is often lacking and a large number of children and young people face an uncertain future. Ecosystems – both marine and terrestrial – are also threatened and in need of support. The possibilities for volunteering in the Caribbean are therefore particularly varied.
Volunteer dream destination Caribbean
As different as some of the islands are, they do have some things in common, such as the tropical climate and the beautiful sandy beaches. If you are looking for the perfect island idyll, you will definitely find it in the Caribbean. A beach vacation is an obvious choice here and the main reason for most tourists to visit a Caribbean island. Water sports enthusiasts and divers also find excellent conditions here. For snorkeling and diving, the Bahamas, Bonaire, Curacao and especially Belize, off the coast of which lies the second largest coral reef in the world, are ideal places.
Although the sea is the main attraction in the Caribbean, there are just as many exciting things to discover on land. Dense rainforest full of exotic animal and plant species is just as much a part of the Mayan culture. In the interior of some islands, volcanoes, mountains and caves lure visitors, while capitals such as Havana in Cuba or Willemstad on Curacao enchant visitors with their unique flair. If you count not only the islands belonging to the Caribbean but also the bordering countries like Colombia, Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica, the offer of sights and leisure activities becomes even more diverse.
(Social) problems in the Caribbean
As a normal tourist you usually don’t notice it, but behind the scenes of the dream islands there are some difficulties. On the one hand, these affect people living in poverty, social and health insecurity, and on the other, nature suffers from the effects of the Mass tourism as well as under that too little money or consciousness in things Environmental protection are present.
One example of this is Belize: the small emerging country has to contend with several problems at once. The state is highly indebted and a considerable portion of the population lives below the poverty line. Drug trafficking and smuggling is one of the causes of the ongoing grievances. Not only the inhabitants of Belize, but also the nature, especially the fragile barrier reef, benefits from foreign aid.
The situation in the Dominican Republic is similar: Poverty, hunger and misery determine the everyday life of many people there. In the countryside, children are often denied access to adequate schooling. Volunteer support is as widespread as it is necessary – and that despite the fact that the "Dom.-Rep." is high in the course with tourists. Jamaica is another vacation paradise with a dark side. On the island there is great social inequality between a few rich people and the poor rest of the population. Work and housing are scarce. Children and young people from difficult backgrounds hardly have a chance of an apprenticeship and a good life later on without outside help.
Volunteering in the Caribbean – what to expect?
Basically, there are two types of Volunteering in the Caribbean: the Working with and for people and the commitment to environmental protection and nature conservation. Sometimes the two areas merge, for example when local people need to be educated and sensitized to environmental issues. If you decide to volunteer for a social project, you can choose to work with children, young people or adults. Educational work in the form of English lessons or cooperation in school and leisure projects is one possible activity; childcare and educational support in daycare centers is another.
Other aid projects are dedicated to health care, nutritional assistance, care for the disabled or the elderly. Since the Caribbean is frequently hit by natural disasters such as hurricanes and landslides, volunteers are also used in this location. Such projects help in the reconstruction and general improvement of the infrastructure for various species.
In nature conservation and environmental protection, the work revolves either around the sea and its creatures or around the rainforest and its inhabitants. For example Animal welfare projects for various species, such as turtles or parrots. Activities for preservation of the rainforest can be reforestation measures or the construction of paths. If you want to contribute to the protection of the marine ecosystem, you can do so in the Bahamas or Belize, among other places. There, projects in the field of Marine Conversation take place, in which fish stocks and the condition of coral reefs are studied and documented.
There are many different volunteer projects to choose from on the islands and in the neighboring countries, depending on where help and cooperation are most urgently needed. In the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica, for example, there are more nature conservation projects, while in Jamaica and Mexico it is mainly social projects that take place. Other destinations such as the Dominican Republic or Belize offer opportunities for both types of volunteer work.
Who wants to Caribbean as a destination for voluntary service has the agony of choice. There are so many tempting places and even more opportunities to make yourself useful. But that is exactly the good thing. Aspiring volunteers are sure to find their ideal destination and the right project here. Volunteering is a chance to work on one of the many important relief projects and to see a side of the Caribbean that is hidden from vacationers.