5 Questions You Should Ask Before Volunteering Abroad
Traveling abroad to volunteer in a community that values your support is a rewarding opportunity that requires careful consideration. Prepare yourself for smashing through those comfort zones and ask yourself the following questions before volunteering abroad. Believe me, you will thank us for it.
Which type of volunteer project will allow me to make a valuable contribution?
There are many things to consider when selecting a volunteer project that will allow you to make a meaningful contribution to a community abroad. But one of the most important questions to ask yourself is what kind of project will be the most meaningful? If you are heading out on a volunteer journey, you are wanting to make a difference and leave a lasting impact on those you meet, as well as have an impact left upon yourself. A sure way to achieve this is to choose a project that you are passionate about and that is well aligned with your existing skills and experience. If you have never used a hammer in your life and are not quite sure what a drill achieves, then a Construction project probably isn’t for you. But if you have had experience in working with children and are passionate about supporting education in under-served communities, then a Childcare or Teaching project will be your perfect match. To explore which types of volunteer projects you’re best suited to, take this quiz.
How much do I know about the country and culture?
Before traveling abroad, it always pays to do some research into the three “Cs” – Culture, Customs and Cuisine – this will be super helpful in managing your expectations of where you are heading. Following the local guidelines when it comes to clothing, behavior and attitude will show your respect for the local culture and people. Universal rule, treat others as you would like to be treated – that’s worldwide. Remember, as volunteer programs are often based in developing communities, you may not always have the comforts of home but hey, that’s all part of the experience! You will be a more independent human being for having the adventure. If you’re volunteering abroad with IVHQ, you’ll be well supported in familiarising yourself with the three Cs, ensuring you are well prepared for your volunteer program. You’ll have the ongoing support of your IVHQ Program Manager and a comprehensive Information Booklet to refer to, access to interactive online training, and an in-country orientation to support you on your journey.
How do I choose a safe and responsible volunteer organization?
This is a question that every traveler should be asking, safety is key when it comes to having an enjoyable experience while in another part of the world. See this guide on how to choose a volunteer organization to help you select a volunteer organization that allows you to make a valuable contribution to community in a safe and supportive environment. Be mindful of yourself and your possessions wherever you choose to travel, listen to local knowledge of where and where not to go. IVHQ’s volunteer orientation is great for providing this kind of insight into the community you will be calling home over the next while. Volunteer safety is paramount to IVHQ and is an aspect of your experience that we take seriously. Audits of the in-country conditions are completed by IVHQ staff to ensure that risks are at a minimum and this attention to prioritizing safety is reflected in our exceptional safety record. Learn more about IVHQ’s approach to responsible volunteer travel here.
Where are my fees going?
What a great question. Ensuring you are clear on where your fees are going is key in identifying whether a volunteer organization is worth further consideration. So check the fees are affordable, and that the organization explains how these fees are allocated. When volunteering with IVHQ, you know that the registration fee you pay goes directly to IVHQ to cover the cost of organizing your program, ensuring you have access to the best staff and pre-departure resources and providing you with ongoing support throughout the booking process. A portion of your registration fee goes into the IVHQ Fund, which supports sustainable volunteer initiatives through the IVHQ Booster Grants. As an IVHQ volunteer, you also know that the program fee that you pay goes direct to IVHQ’s in-country partner organization and pays for expenses during your stay, such as your airport pick-up, program orientation, meals, accommodation and 24/7 in-country support. It’s a great deal! See IVHQ’s affordable feeshere.
What do I want to gain from this experience?
This is an important question you need to ask yourself, as it will set the pace for your entire trip. This is an opportunity to question your intentions and ensure you are volunteering abroad for the right reasons. Do you have set goals that you want to achieve - to make a sustainable contribution to your host community, to share and develop your skills and experience, or to meet like-minded volunteers and work towards achieving a common goal? Before volunteering abroad, take the time to research the country, the local customs, and available travel opportunities to make sure you get the most from your experience. Make sure you give yourself enough time in the country of your choice so that your opportunity to make a valuable contribution is not restricted, and that you have enough time to really get into your project and immerse yourself in the community. Most volunteers wish they had more time, so keep that in mind! We always recommend that volunteers enter this experience with an open mind, an eagerness to work hard, and a willingness to learn. As a volunteer, you will gain as much out of the experience as you put in. It’s important to manage expectations and understand that while an individual volunteer won’t change the world, as an IVHQ volunteer, you will make a contribution to meeting community needs in way that builds on the work of others and provides a vital next step in creating change. Lean about other IVHQers’ experiences here.
Still have a few unanswered queries? Lucky we have an excellent Enquiries Team and the best Program Managers! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if there is anything you need to know. Head over to our contact page for all the deets!
Interested in getting the perspective of someone who has been there, done that? Join the community of over 80,000 IVHQers in our Facebook Group who will be more than stoked to share their stories and answer your questions.