How our Volunteer Programs link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

by juliette capomolla


Through our charity the FutureSense Foundation, we ensure that all of our international volunteer programs are ethical, meeting actual community needs and part of a long-term plan. We align all of our programs to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which provide a framework for what we need to achieve in order to reduce global inequality and eradicate poverty. 


There are 17 goals in total that focus on a variety of global issues. These goals encourage global collaboration to achieve them in the hope that no gets left behind as the world continues to develop. The UN set a deadline to achieve these goals by 2030, which means that we need to get cracking!


On our program, we broadly focus on three main community development areas:

  • Livelihoods and Income Generation

  • Education and Child Welfare

  • Health and Wellbeing


Across our 6 destinations and within each of these areas, we are able to work towards quite a few of the 17 SDGs, through the hard work of our in-country teams and volunteers. In 2017-18 alone we were able to reach nearly 8,500 marginalised people around the world and make great progress towards achieving our goals.


Education and Child Welfare

Having access to a quality education is a large factor in addressing poverty and inequalities. We work to improve the quality of education in our partner communities, and our volunteers play a large role in this. Through programs like our Community Challenges, volunteers work with both teachers and local children to promote quality education.


With teachers, we run teacher training workshops. These work to discourage habits like rote learning and provide them with alternate strategies to encourage a more hands-on education for their students. Being able to learn in a more engaging manner will inspire local children to continue their education through to secondary school and beyond.


Our volunteers also help us deliver STEM (science, technology, education and maths) and creative workshops at local schools, which are often missing from the curriculum. These workshops again help to inspire children and fill gaps in their knowledge that they otherwise wouldn't have. These workshops also help to improve the conversational English skills of teachers and students alike. Being able to speak English in the communities where we work can open up the door to new opportunities and higher paying jobs, helping families break out of the poverty cycle.


The presence of our female volunteers also helps to promote gender equality. Our volunteers act as role models and help to show young children and their families that women can do everything that a man can. It inspires young girls to stay in school and pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be!


It is important to note that our programs are deigned to supplement the existing curriculum and share knowledge with the community that they can continue to use in the future, rather than replacing local jobs. Each volunteer group will build on the work of the last, reinforcing knowledge and continuously reaching new schools and community members. This means that our impact is sustainable and that progress towards achieving the SDGs can be driven by communities themselves.


Health and Wellbeing

Through our Health Promotion Challenges, our volunteers help us address some of the core issues affecting community health and wellbeing. Our programs bring education, awareness and resources about topics such as nutrition and food hygiene, water and sanitation, women and girl’s health and hygiene, non-communicable diseases, spread of disease, and basic first aid and emergency care.


One example of how we help to improve community health is through our focus on Dengue Fever. There was recently an outbreak in Cambodia, so our health volunteers focused on delivering workshops at local school and in the wider community to provide education about the disease. We taught the symptoms of the fever, how to treat it and how to avoid it! Locals are now better informed and empowered to make healthier choices that may help them avoid contracting the disease.


Education about female health and hygiene to young girls is also an important part of our health promotion programs. In the communities where we work, many girls don't know how their body works because female reproduction is a taboo subject, and many don't have access to sanitary products. This means the when they have their period, they don't go to school, and are missing out on almost one quarter of their education each year! Our volunteers help educate women and girls about their bodies and how to manage their periods so that they can still go to school.


Livelihoods and Income Generation

We help to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty through a whole range of programs. Our health and education programs are key in this. Education provide opportunities for employment that can raise you above the poverty cycle, while health promotion prevents people unnecessarily falling ill and not being able to work or attend school.  


Our volunteers also help us improve livelihoods through our environment volunteering challenges. In Peru for example, the communities where we work rely on agriculture and farming for the majority of their income. The area is currently facing widespread drought which is threatening livelihoods and is made worse by the eucalyptus trees planted in the area whose roots are sucking what little water there is away from other crops. We help to raise awareness of the importance of planting native crops that will be better for the local environment and perform well even in drought!


In Nepal, we are focusing on improving waste management techniques. Our volunteer are building awareness in the community of the health dangers of burning plastic and the benefits of recycling. We help teach locals of easy steps they can take to better care for their environment that will help them deal with some of the effects of climate change, and improve their overall quality of life. 


You have probably noticed that while we have these 3 broad categories, a lot of the Sustainable Development Goals overlap and feed into each other. What this means is that we are able to contribute to achieving almost all of the goals, meaning that our development work truly is sustainable. If you choose to volunteer overseas with us, you can therefore be sure that even on a 2 week program, you are contributing to the bigger picture and making an impact that will continue to grow over time.