One of the many bonuses of taking a volunteer overseas trip with International Volunteer HQ is the opportunity to live within the local community alongside other international volunteers, in either a volunteer house or home stay.
1. As Authentic As It Gets
Through living and working with the local community, IVHQ volunteers have the unique opportunity to gain an authentic appreciation of their host country. Whether it be through sampling fish amok at the volunteer house in Cambodia or being gifted a Maasai blanket from your host mother in Kenya, this is an experience that no hotel or hostel could match.
Staying with a host family allows you to experience the culture of the region more authentically and intimately. You wake when they do, eat when and what they do, etc - you learn so much more about the area this way. It was a little bit of culture shock at first, but definitely a worthwhile experience. AmberLee Bríon (IVHQer in Kenya)
I enjoyed the home stay experience because the family opened up their home to us, cooked us their fave dishes and took us out around town! Jennifer Le (IVHQer in Peru)
Photo: @sylviaskittles (IVHQer in Kenya) via Instagram
2. World of Cultures Under One Roof
With thousands of volunteers coming together from all corners of the world to volunteer abroad, be prepared to learn not only about the local culture, but also about the cultures of your housemates.
It was a multi-cultural slumber party! We all became so close and were able to be immersed in not only the culture of our home in India, but learn about all the countries we came from, too. Not to mention my host mother is the most wonderful cook! Caitlin Rulien (IVHQer in India)
The volunteer house in Guatemala was amazing! Casa Shekina has 15-25 people at one time and they’re all in there 20s. It was so fun being able to meet people from around the world, instantly having people to travel and go out with. I even met someone going to my same college! You live, eat, party, volunteer and experience so much with these people, you leave with so many new friends and having learned so much from them. Kayla Mildren (IVHQer in Guatemala)
The house was a great place to share stories, make friends to travel with, and also lasting friendships with other internationals! Kaydo (IVHQer in South Africa)
Photo: @lailaegindi (IVHQer in South Africa via Instagram)
3. Talking the Talk
Whether you’re playing card games with your host brother or chatting to the volunteer house manager, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to put your knowledge of the local language to the true test! To avoid throwing you in the deep end, our local teams offer an introductory language lesson during your orientation and many of our volunteer programs offer affordable language lessons that you can take advantage of during your time in country.
You also tend to pick up the language much faster in a family home - especially if, like mine, your host family hasn’t exactly mastered English either! AmberLee Bríon (IVHQer in Kenya)
Photo: @sylviaskittles (IVHQer in Cambodia) via Instagram
4. New Found Family
While the concept of finding a sense of family in a foreign country may seem farfetched, our long-term volunteers will be the first to convince you otherwise.
I have to echo Kayla on loving the volunteer house in Guatemala. Casa Shekina became my family and 6 months later I am still in close contact with most of the people I met there. Life there was never dull, always someone to share a laugh or a cry with. Even though we all came from different places and we had a range of ages, we all clicked so well. I also loved the staff working at Shekina, they became our family away from home. Zoe Ell-Be’e (IVHQer in Guatemala)
I now have a Nepali family thanks to my July 2012 homestay in Pokhara, Nepal. They were the best! Great memories of warm, caring people. Patricia Barry (IVHQer in Nepal)
I absolutely loved my home stay in Tanzania! I still talk to Thomas my “brother,” and I always will have a mama in Arusha! I have cried because I’ve missed my family so much before. Allison Feikes (IVHQer in Tanzania)
Photo: @alliekellet (IVHQer in Cambodia) via Instagram
5. Did We Mention the Food?
If sampling curious cuisines takes your fancy and you’re prepared to embrace a different style of eating to what you’re used to at home, you will be in your element!
Staying with Consuelo in Ecuador was amazing. She was so kind and loving and made the BEST food. Kristen Maxwell (IVHQer in Ecuador)
Staying with the Akha people in north Thailand was amazing. Such friendly and generous people, and the food… simple but yummy. Jacki Nowell (IVHQer in Thailand)
Photo: @lydmacleod (IVHQer in Sri Lanka) via Instagram
The accommodation options available for IVHQ volunteers will depend on the country you chose to volunteer in. For example, our Kenya and Cambodia programs include both volunteer house and home stay accommodation, whereas all volunteers in Bali and Brazil are currently accommodated in a volunteer house. Browse our range of affordable volunteer programs to find out more information about the different accommodation options specific to each country.
If you’re volunteering abroad as a family, we recommend joining an IVHQ program that offers home stay accommodation. Families with children under the age of 16 often prefer to stay with a host family, rather than in the dormitory-style accommodation offered in the volunteer house. Some of our more senior volunteers also enjoy the opportunity to live in a home stay and we have an accommodation upgrades available for volunteers in Bali, Sri Lanka and Vietnam who wish to be accommodated in a private room.
If you have any accommodation preferences, just let us know when you apply online and our local staff will do their best to meet you wishes!