Every day at IVHQ, one of the most commonly asked questions we come across is for recommendations on the best volunteer programs for people who are traveling abroad for the first time. While we confidently offer programs with great volunteer support around the world, IVHQ’s recently-launched program in New Zealand is a fantastic option for those looking to get their feet wet with volunteering abroad for the first time.
Here are 9 reasons why becoming a volunteer in New Zealand may be a great option (along with photos of New Zealand’s stunning scenery!) …
1. The People are Awesome
We might be biased, being based in New Zealand and all, but the consensus is that New Zealanders (also known as “Kiwis”) are generally very laid back and friendly to tourists. You’re lost? They’re happy to help with directions (or maybe even giving you a ride). You’re hungry? If they don’t offer to feed you, they’ll certainly make some recommendations on places to eat. It’s a great place to get started on your first traveling experience because let’s be honest - it will at some point result in being lost *and* hungry, so why not surround yourself with people who are willing to help you out when that happens.
2. Less Culture Shock
New Zealand has historically been highly influenced by European culture from the past 150 years of settlement and many of the social constructs are therefore similar to what our American, Canadian, British or Australian volunteers would find at home. In recent decades, Auckland’s population has expanded to be among the same diversity rankings as cities such as London, Sydney and Toronto, with a huge expat population from countries all over the world. Chances are, when you’re homesick and have a hankering for your favorite comfort food or for chatting with someone who will get your cultural references, you’ll likely be able to in Auckland.
3. No Language Barrier
Language is often one of the biggest challenges volunteers and travelers experience during their time abroad. Since IVHQ requires volunteers to speak English, cross this one off the list! English is the predominantly spoken language in New Zealand, which makes getting around and getting the hang of things a heck of a lot easier.
4. Auckland Makes for Easy Access To the Rest of NZ
IVHQ’s program is based in Auckland, which is New Zealand’s largest city and transport hub - this makes for easy access to hop-skipping-and-jumping to other parts of the country for weekends away.
5. So Much to Do in One Tiny Country
New Zealand is a small country but is packed from coast to coast with recreation options, which means you can maximize your activities within a shorter period of time. New Zealand is one of the only places in the world where you can ski and surf in the same day, where you can hike on a glacier and in a rainforest in the same weekend, where you can reach both culture-filled cities and awe-strickening nature with ease.
6. There’s a Comfortable Climate Year-Round
The climate in New Zealand is mild, with a very narrow temperature band of highs and lows in most of the country - this translates to any time being a good time to visit. There is a decent amount of rain, but that’s how New Zealand gets the lush greenery that pleases sheep and people alike.
7. Hostel Accommodations are Super Social
Volunteers on the New Zealand program are accommodated in dormitory-style, co-ed rooms in a public backpacker’s hostel. As a result, you’ll be surrounded by tons of people - not just the other volunteers - to hang out with. Many of these backpackers will be well traveled, making them great for seeking advice from on where to go and what to do in New Zealand and beyond. Having friends around the world also opens travel opportunities for the future.
8. It’s One of the Safest Places in the World
New Zealand is a safe and peaceful place to live - it’s a modern, secular democratic society with a very diverse population. According to the 2013 Global Peace Index, New Zealand is the 3rd safest place to live in the world (after Iceland and Denmark). New Zealand is so safe that it is uncommon for a Police Officer to carry a gun. This allows you to relax and focus on your volunteering and having fun, rather than staying safe.
9. IVHQ has ‘Heaps’ of Advice
Whether it’s questions about how it all works, what to do with your weekends, what a certain Kiwi saying means or getting the low-down on anything else, IVHQ is here to help. Additionally, the IVHQ New Zealand Program Manager is Chelsea Green, who is originally from the US but has been living in New Zealand for the past 5 years. She has plenty of perspective and experience with IVHQ, volunteering abroad, traveling and living in New Zealand and she’s more than happy to share it with you. Sweet as!
IVHQ’s New Zealand program is based in Auckland, New Zealand. It starts the first and third Monday of each month and offers volunteering projects in Coastline Conservation and Education, Freshwater Conservation and Education as well as NGO Support.