Why Volunteer in the Caribbean?

What you often see when you research any Caribbean island are the lovely beaches, sunsets, landscape, resorts, architecture and the beauty of the people. However, these images do not tell the full story about some of the harsh conditions that many persons in the Caribbean are experiencing. From a low of 16% to a high of 80% of the Caribbean’s various populations are living below the poverty line.

The Caribbean islands are riddled with many social problems. This includes high illiteracy rates, limited resources to stimulate learning within schools at various levels, high unemployment, high levels of debt, inadequate access to or unaffordable health care, improper sanitation in schools and communities, lack of access to basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter), insufficient programmes for the elderly, homeless and persons with disabilities and many other issues – it is a myth to highlight only sand, sea and sun. The focus of Caribbean islands has been to reduce the debt burden leaving very little to improve the lives of the people.

As developing countries the resources such as schools, hospitals, child care facilities among others are basic and inadequate and the need to change this often times is a challenge. One of the resources needed is the human resource necessary to support the various partner institutions in the child care, education, health, environment, humanitarian and community sectors. As a volunteer you can provide that extra pair of hands, skills, experience and motivation to help a partner take better care of its beneficiaries.

Below are some statistics and information that will help you to see why volunteering in the Caribbean helps to change lives.

  • Every 18 seconds another child becomes an orphan
  • Every 14 second a parent dies because of AIDS
  • 9 million orphans live in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Children are abandoned or neglected due to poverty, disabilities, parents with mental illnesses and other factors
  • The number of cases of child abuse in the Caribbean is increasing so there are more children in state care
  • Children are profoundly affected by these challenges circumstances and therefore face economic hardships, lack of love, affection and attention, stigma, discrimination, emotional distress, psychological distress, illnesses, sexual and physical abuse, exploitation and trafficking
  • There is limited staff in state run facilities
Source: A joint report of new orphan estimates and a framework for action, UNICEF and UNAIDS
  • Cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and malignant neoplasm are the leading causes of death in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Approximately 900,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 400,000 from cancer occur each year across Latin America and the Caribbean
  • The English-Speaking Caribbean shows even greater difference in mortality due to cardiovascular diseases compared to communicable diseases
  • The estimated mortality due to cardiovascular diseases and diabetes is almost 250 per 100,000 population compared to 70 per 100,000 with communicable diseases
  • Data from Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) suggest that the Caribbean epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases is the worst in the region of the Americas
  • There is a high prevalence of obesity, hypertension, pre-hypertension, respiratory diseases and circulatory diseases
  • Chronic non-communicable diseases are included as priority for governments in the Caribbean
Source: Chronic Diseases in the Caribbean, West Indies Medical Journal vol. 60 No.4, 2011
  • Approximately 110 million people do not have access to improved sanitation in the Latin American and the Caribbean
  • Approximately 36 million people do not have access to safe water in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Only 51% of the population have access to sewers
  • Poor water quality, poor quality of service, irregular supply, low water pressure, unsafe drinking water, lack of resources and affordability are some of the main issues related to water and sanitation in the Caribbean
Source: Water and Sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean UN Habitat Report, 2010 and UNDP Human Development Report – Water and Sanitation in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2006
  • Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write, with understanding, a short, simple statement about one's everyday life (UN, 2008)
  • Caribbean adult literacy rate is 69%
  • Caribbean youth literacy rate is 82%
  • Low adult literacy levels is a problem that affects more women than men
Source: Adult and Youth Literacy: National, Regional and Global Trends 1985-2015, UNESCO Institute of Statistics
  • 6.2% - 20% unemployment rate in the Caribbean
  • 60% of citizens in the Caribbean are youth
  • 11%-40% unemployment rate among youth across the islands
  • The Caribbean has the highest youth unemployment levels
  • Unemployment rate for women is 30% higher than men
  • The region will have to create nearly 50,000,000 jobs over the next decade just to offset demographic growth
Source: International Labour Organization Labour Review for Latin America and the Caribbean 2014/2015 and Youth Unemployment and Labour in the Caribbean, Caribbean Knowledge Series, January 2014