Are you looking for real stories from real volunteers? Curious to hear from IVHQers who have traveled to multiple destinations and contributed to a variety of projects? Want to know what impact this had on their lives, as well as the local communities they’ve supported?
We’ve pulled together these stories from volunteers all around the globe — our IVHQ Legends! As volunteers who have been on many IVHQ volunteer trips, these incredible people have plenty of experiences, tips, and insights to share.
Hear what these legends have to say! From their favorite memories and personal experiences to the locals they met and the relationships they formed, these volunteers all have a story to tell — and maybe one of them will inspire you to lock in that volunteer trip you’ve been dreaming of…
Madeline Stanton - 7x IVHQ Volunteer
Volunteering is the best way to travel and immerse yourself in the culture
You know how sometimes a picture just can’t capture a breathtaking moment? Well, that’s like trying to capture an experience with IVHQ in a few words. What I will say is that if you are considering a program with IVHQ, go for it. There’s no better way to say it than this, IVHQ changed my life. I couldn’t be more grateful for every trip I’ve been on with IVHQ.
Volunteering with IVHQ is the best way to travel, because you learn about new places and experience them how they actually are - not just the pretty perfect instagram that we might see on a typical vacation.
Traveling this way is so meaningful and purposeful - you really get a sense of what life is like for the locals as you immerse yourself in their culture during your stay. This has so much more value than your typical touristy experiences that other travel companies offer. Plus it’s a lot more affordable to travel with IVHQ.
From exploring my very first trip in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe in November 2016 as an opportunity to safely travel on my own before starting my career, to my first international trip after the COVID-19 pandemic in Cusco, Peru in June 2022, IVHQ has given me an opportunity to see the world, expand my comfort zone, reset my priorities, and reconnect with my aspirations. If you’re feeling the call to travel, there’s no better way to do it than with IVHQ!
Mary Ann Guest - 7x IVHQ Volunteer
You’re never too old to rediscover yourself
Navigating a life-changing divorce at 60, the movie 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' ignited a spark for adventure within me. Fueled by the motto 'Helping others, Helps you', India was the place that called to me. So, when I came across IVHQ, promising a genuine volunteering experience and a shift away from my personal struggles, I committed to a 3 month stint without hesitation! This was just the start of my journey of self-discovery.
My volunteer experience in Sri Lanka has been my favorite so far. Inspired by a novel about Ceylon, I realized it was now Sri Lanka and eagerly signed up for Temple Renovation. Nestled in Kandy, where I connected with local women and young monks while painting temple walls. I also met two fellow volunteers from Beirut, Lebanon, and learned so much from these two 25 year olds as we got to know each other and exchanged stories - from their life in the Middle East and my life in the US. It was hard to leave after 6 wonderful weeks!
This past January I finally ticked off my dream of volunteering in the Middle East and completed my 7th trip with IVHQ to Amman, Jordan, working with Special Needs children. Each journey with IVHQ continues to leave a mark on my soul, and I cherish the amazing adventures I’ve had.
Paulina Lozano - 7x IVHQ Volunteer
Traveling alone can be a challenge, but one of the best decisions you’ll make!
Most of my fondest memories come from my volunteer experiences with IVHQ. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to volunteer on 7 different occasions, including Bali, Costa Rica, Cape Town, Portugal, Zambia, Madagascar, and Arusha. Each experience has left a profound impact on me and holds a special place in my heart.
I’ve had the privilege of meeting wonderful people while making a positive impact on the communities, including helping schools, teaching, childcare, forest conservation, and providing meals to the homeless. I have formed lasting relationships with people I still keep in touch with and have been fortunate enough to participate in incredible projects, such as bringing electricity to an entire school and supporting the education of orphaned children.
Traveling alone can be a challenge, but it has undoubtedly been one of the best decisions I've ever made. It has allowed me to develop skills and acquire knowledge that I wouldn't have gained any other way. It's evident to me that volunteering enriches my life in immeasurable ways, and giving always brings me joy and peace.
Susan and Aaron Gilman - 13x IVHQ Volunteers
Volunteering abroad as a retired couple beats simply vacationing in a foreign country
After retiring in 2011, we wanted to balance our ability to retire early/travel with giving back in some small way. IVHQ stood out above other providers and continues to offer multiple vetted project offerings for both of us, in countries we want to visit, at very reasonable prices.
Thanks to IVHQ, we’ve been able to make so many memories! Aaron has taken tea breaks with monks in Sri Lanka, fed recovering homeless in Bogota, chatted with them in a soup kitchen in Ho Chi Minh, and has helped test and administer malaria tablets to over 1000 children in Ghana. For me, teaching in Ghana, Zambia, Colombia and Sri Lanka were each memorable in their own way. As an example, a few “gifted” kids would stop by for extra tutoring at the volunteer house in Ghana every day to soak up as much English as possible. My Ho Chi Minh experience, working side by side with Aaron, preparing and helping serve several 100’s of people is one of our top picks! We were humbled to know that we, too, were playing a small part in helping locals with local needs.
Making friends is a lot easier than you would think. Volunteering is the “common denominator” when it comes to “fitting in” regardless of age or experience. Everyone wants to help. The other is travel. Having been to 75 countries, we’re always happy to share our experiences as well as learn from others about places they’ve been or we have yet to go.
It’s really a good feeling knowing you made a choice to volunteer abroad, helping with locally defined projects vs simply vacationing in a foreign country.
Stephen Jagard - 5x IVHQ Volunteer
Once you volunteer, you’ll have to experience it again and again
After college, I wanted adventure and decided to take a gap year, spurred by my travel experiences during my junior year in London and Europe. The travel bug had bitten me, and I craved to explore the world. I looked into volunteer programs, and IVHQ stood out - they provided a sense of security while venturing into a foreign land, making it an enticing option.
With IVHQ, I saw an opportunity to travel inexpensively into diverse countries, immersing myself in underdeveloped or developing nations to contribute and give back to the local communities. Choosing a wildlife conservation program at Victoria Falls was the best decision! The hands-on nature of the program and the chance to meet like-minded individuals from across the globe solidified my choice.
I knew straight away that this was going to be a recurring adventure for me. Just knowing that I have a safe place to stay and will be meeting other people that are doing a similar mission and coming from different parts of the world, was reason enough for me to choose IVHQ over and over again.
There's something about those experiences that for me, is the essence of what it means to be alive. I know that sounds cliche, but there's a thrill and adventure and excitement, a connection to it that once you start, you have to experience it again and again.
Valandia Justice - 7x IVHQ Volunteer
You will truly live, breathe and immerse yourself in the local culture
I craved both international adventure and the joy of giving back, and IVHQ provided a comforting safety net during my travels. Navigating a new country can be overwhelming, but IVHQ ensured a secure and supported journey from start to finish, making me feel at ease.
My volunteer roles centered around teaching English and caring for children. Bir, India, became a cherished memory as I taught the endearing young monks. Their openness in sharing their lives, language, and inviting me into their world was heartwarming.
Amongst the incredible experiences, staying with host families stood out. Their warm welcome and willingness to share their lives enriched my journey.
IVHQ propelled me towards a full-time career in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, fostering continued cultural growth. I've come to understand that regardless of who you are or where you're from, you can spread love and kindness globally.
Let go of worries and embrace the world; it conspires to fulfill your dreams. Amidst any initial apprehensions, post-trip, you'll find happiness, satisfaction, and boundless joy.
Constance Spencer - 8x IVHQ Volunteer
You can see how you genuinely help the local community
Embracing IVHQ's diverse programs across 20 countries with various accommodation options, my journey commenced by renovating a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, a culturally rich and purposeful project. This marked the start of a series of impactful experiences - from rebuilding shelters for single mothers in Costa Rica to contributing to conservation efforts in Victoria Falls. Over time, my volunteering focus shifted from construction to environmental conservation, fueled by a Master's in Sustainability from Harvard. Through IVHQ, I've witnessed both environmental degradation and hopeful initiatives, shaping my role as an architect and sustainability advocate.
As my volunteering horizon expanded, so did the meaningful connections. From like-minded volunteers turned dear friends to the invaluable encounters with local communities, each experience enriched my life. IVHQ's safe and supportive platform enabled this transformative journey, urging me to encourage others, especially the students I mentor, to embark on this adventure of giving back while exploring the world. Beyond the physical projects, it's the lasting impact and the example set that truly shape communities, reinforcing the belief that respecting, empathizing, and appreciating others' realities make for a fulfilling volunteering experience.
Julien Comeau - 7x IVHQ Volunteer
I’ve discovered the road to a fulfilling retirement!
I have traveled the world, probably visited over 60 countries. I lived and worked at sea for 6 summers during my college years. My desire is to travel to new destinations and contribute my small share to helping people in need of assistance.
On my first IVHQ trip to Ghana, I quickly realized that it would not be my last. Now years later, I have volunteered in Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Guatemala, India and Zambia with IVHQ.
IVHQ trips are a true adventure and an intimate experience. You live, you feel and you love the people and the country. The IVHQ staff become your family, the fellow volunteers become your friends.
As the grandfather of the group, I have always been respected and treated well by all. The “kids” would ask me to accompany them on the evening outings, the cook would prepare me a special breakfast because I was always the first one in the kitchen.
There is no age limit to volunteering, there is no limit to giving… I have found the road to a fulfilling retirement!
Caitlin Fowlie - 6x IVHQ Volunteer
Volunteering globally broadened my horizons and enhanced my confidence
I chose IVHQ due to its stellar online reviews and easy application process, and have been on six IVHQ programs since. From teaching English in Thailand and Laos to special needs programs in Sri Lanka, environmental conservation in the Philippines, and turtle conservation in Bali.
I have so many amazing memories of my volunteer experiences, way too many to list them all. A few of my favorites include cycling to the school in Laos, meeting the locals whilst planting mangroves in the Philippines, hosting after school classes for the teachers in Sri Lanka to better their knowledge in special education and playing games with the kids after school in Ghana. My top most memorable moment however has to be releasing a turtle back into the ocean in Bali!
The friendships formed during these experiences were a significant aspect of the overall experience. Bonding with fellow volunteers during travels and outings, highlighting the welcoming and communal atmosphere fostered by IVHQ. Personally, these volunteer experiences fueled my desire to continue volunteering globally, broadening my horizons, enhancing my confidence, and instilling the belief that dedication and determination can overcome any challenge.
For anyone considering their first volunteer trip with IVHQ, I wholeheartedly encourage you to take the plunge! You’ll meet amazing people and create lifelong memories - you won't regret it!
Where in the world do you want to make a difference?
”Ready to put down the phone and connect with real people in real places? Want to feel better because you give back, but are really giving to yourself? Go on ANY trip IVHQ has to offer. Its life changing and you won't be able to stop talking about it....and you will do more for your own community when you return home. The local team in Jamaica were outstanding. Excellent and continual communication, clear overview, and unending kindness. Keep up the fantastic work!”