Volunteering abroad forces ordinary people into situations that they otherwise wouldn’t be in, and sends them to the farthest corners of the globe to be humbled, inspired, and changed by their experience. For many, the time to sign up for a volunteer trip abroad comes at a pivotal moment in life: graduating school, changing jobs, and looking to expand horizons beyond what they see in their day-to-day life. Getting involved in volunteering abroad can be extremely confusing. Here are some things to keep in mind when you start your search:
Vet the Program
There are a host of programs offering volunteer travel opportunities. Each one touts its own values, ethics, and placement options. It is crucial to look at every aspect of these companies, as some may scam or short-change their volunteers, a cruel but true reality for some organizations. The best way to vet the options is to reach out to former volunteers, look at blog and social media posts, and get a first-hand look at what the organization is potentially offering.
Consider the Costs
The fee for a volunteer organization usually covers the volunteer’s basic needs sans-airfare. This will include a home-stay family or volunteer campus, food, and administrative costs. The volunteers are usually responsible for their flight and any extra purchases that are not related to the program. They are not monetarily compensated in any way. Some organizations will assist you in booking tours and extracurricular activities beyond initial duties.
Choose Your Destination
Volunteer placements are all over the world, many in developing nations, or in rural untouched areas where there is economic disparity. Many organizations allow volunteers to choose their work, which ranges from animal rights, such as panda conservation in China and sea turtle counting in Costa Rica, to women’s empowerment, HIV/AIDS Education, construction, working in orphanages, or construction.
When deciding on a volunteer country, take into account the living conditions, political situation, and any outside factors that may have an effect on the experience. While any responsible organization will do everything in its power to protect volunteers, they are not immune to sudden unstable political changes or events that may be a threat—especially when working in developing nations. Up until the trip, get continuous updates from the State Department regarding ongoing situations and how it may play into the time during which the placement is occurring.
Volunteering is a fruitful and rewarding experience. It’s a way to travel to places rarely listed on tourist itineraries. Plus, you get the opportunity to do something that benefits others.