So you’re thinking about volunteering abroad over Summer, but you’re not sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve started researching but you’re not sure how to make the best choice?
With so many options out there, looking for a volunteer programme abroad can be daunting to say the least and with so many considerations to take into account (costs, safety, value for money, benefits to the local community etc.), it’s difficult to know that you’re making the right choice.
So we’ve put together 5 useful questions, to help you navigate the many volunteer programmes and organisations out there and so that you’re better prepared to make the right choice, for you.
1) What are my goals and expectations?
This is a really important one. Before you do anything it’s good to understand what you want from a volunteering programme and what you expect from an organisation. Start defining what you really want to get out of the experience and don’t be afraid to ask the organisation questions. For example ask what you’ll be doing on the project day-to-day, and what the larger goal for the project is. There would be nothing worse than to go through all the planning, booking everything and only find out when you’ve travelled 6000 miles and reached the project-site, that it’s really not what you expected.
2) What are my skills and interests?
What skills do you have to offer? A volunteer programme is a great opportunity to use or develop existing skills. What are your interests? Would you like to work with children, communities, wildlife or in conservation? Is there a particular destination you’d love to visit? This will help narrow down your search and your enjoyment of the programme will be greatly enhanced if what you’re taking part in, is something that genuinely interests you. Although that being said, there’s definitely nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new! But an initial interest definitely helps to sustain the passion, especially when the mosquito bites are itching and you’re down to your last pair of clean underwear!
3) What level of support will I receive?
What support does the organisation offer for volunteers pre-departure? Do they provide medical advice for the destination, fundraising packages, example kit-lists etc.? And what on the ground support do they provide? Do you need to make your own way from the airport to the project-site or will there be someone to meet you? Do they have a project co-ordinator or a team leader in-country with you? Are there safety measure in place in case something goes wrong? These are all important things to find out and take into consideration when looking for a suitable project.
4) Where does my money go?
Find out from the organisation exactly where your money is going; legit organisations should have no problem being transparent with costs. Does part of the money you pay go to the project or charity that you’ll be working with? Additionally make sure you find out exactly what the costs cover and what they don’t. Again, good organisations should be transparent with this… you don’t want to be in for an unpleasant surprise later down the line.
5) What are previous volunteers saying?
Search out reviews, photos and videos from past volunteers, both good and bad. This is a great way to really get a feel for what the organisation and the project is like. It might be that smaller organisations don’t have a wealth of online reviews, so you could always ask to be put in touch with a previous volunteer to ask any questions you might have.
Clearly there’s many more things to consider when choosing the right volunteer programme for you but hopefully the above questions will set you on the right track to finding a volunteer programme and organisation that’s both reputable and right for you. Volunteering abroad is an amazing and rewarding experience for all parties, when done right!
Leave a comment if you think of any more useful questions!
Quest Overseas is an experienced organization specializing in long-term sustainable volunteering projects across South America and Sub-Saharan Africa. We are 100% transparent with costs, our impact, history and our future. We also offer a full level of support to all our volunteers both in the pre-departure stages and 24 hour support in-country support, whilst they are on the projects and expeditions.
For more information call us on Tel (+44)01273 777206 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org