Got your eye on a volunteer abroad program but just need to convince your family to let you travel overseas? Let’s help you persuade them!
We hear from parents and guardians every year who are looking for reassurance that their child will be well looked after when they’re overseas on an IVHQ program.
Here’s how we answer the questions we get asked most often by parents – which you can use if your family ask you these same questions:
- Is volunteering abroad safe?
- Will there be supervision or support while overseas?
- Why is there a fee to volunteer abroad?
- What is the accommodation and food like?
- How will this volunteer experience benefit my son/daughter?
- What if my son/daughter doesn’t like the volunteer program?
- Top tips for parents of IVHQ volunteers
Is volunteering abroad safe?
Volunteering abroad with IVHQ is one of the safest ways to travel internationally as a teen or young adult. We have always followed industry-leading procedures and best practices around health and safety.
Covid-19 We’ve had thousands of volunteers travel with us since Covid-19 started and have an unmatched record when it comes to keeping everyone safe. All of our local teams are experienced in operating our programs under Covid-19 safety procedures, and we have implemented a number of extra health and safety measures to minimize infection risks.
Risk management Each of our volunteer programs has a Risk Management plan. This identifies potential risks, how to avoid them, and the emergency procedures to follow should an incident occur. We audit every program regularly to ensure compliance, and we have an online incident reporting and escalation tool to ensure we’re informed quickly if something does happen.
Incident management We have an online incident management system that allows any accident or health-related issue to be escalated to the local team, IVHQ management, and parents/guardians quickly for rapid response.
Pre-departure training As part of our support services, volunteers are given access to and strongly encouraged to complete a detailed set of online training materials before starting their volunteer program. This helps them get prepared before leaving home, and includes a full module on how to stay safe while abroad, with a particular focus on risks that volunteers may face while they are not under the supervision of our local teams.
In-country orientation We support this training with a detailed in-person orientation for all volunteers when they arrive in their chosen country. The orientation briefing provides detailed health and safety guidelines that are specific to the particular community in which your son/daughter will be placed and outlines the program’s emergency contacts and procedures. It also provides insight and advice about local cultural expectations and language basics.
Will there be supervision or support while overseas?
All volunteers receive comprehensive support from start to finish and our experienced local teams are available in-country 24/7 to provide support on the ground. Your son/daughter has access to multiple layers of support both before and during their volunteer trip:
- IVHQ Program Manager is their primary point of contact prior to commencing the volunteer trip and can be contacted at any time for advice or help.
- IVHQ’s Local Team is based on the ground in their host country and is available 24-hours a day to provide direct support. They will collect your son/daughter at the airport, take them to their accommodation, introduce them to other volunteers, and answer any questions they have. Your son/daughter will be given contact details for these team members so they can be reached quickly and easily, and they check in regularly with volunteers to ensure everything is going well.
- Volunteer Placement Staff provide adult supervision during the volunteering work, and are responsible for health and safety while at the volunteer placements.
Why is there a fee to volunteer abroad?
All IVHQ programs are fully hosted experiences that include accommodation, meals, airport pickup, 24/7 in-country support and much more. This works out to be much more economical and hassle-free than an average vacation or backpacking trip.
Our Program Fee covers the cost of hosting your son/daughter and is invested directly into the local community, supporting locally-driven initiatives and long-term employment opportunities for local people. Volunteering abroad with IVHQ starts at just US$20 (approximately CA$28) per day including accommodation, making it one of the most affordable and convenient ways to travel. Other volunteer abroad providers charge a lot more.
We regularly review our Program Fees to ensure they remain affordable, accessible and inclusive so we can maximize the impact we can deliver as a collective.
What is the accommodation and food like?
Accommodation is included in all of our volunteer programs abroad. This ensures our volunteers only stay in accommodation that our local teams have chosen and checked themselves.
We carefully select accommodation options based on safety, quality, convenience, social immersion, and budget. With accommodation taken care of, we remove the stress, risk, cost, and time investment from having to make these arrangements yourself.
Most volunteer programs offer accommodation in volunteer houses, which gives volunteers the opportunity to socialize and benefit from a broader cultural exchange with other residents from around the world. Many of our volunteer programs also offer homestay accommodation with a local host family. This allows your son/daughter to be immersed in the local culture within an intimate setting, and ensures there’s an adult available to provide support.
The majority of our volunteer abroad programs include meals, which are usually of the typical local cuisine. This makes the trip more economical and gives your son/daughter the opportunity to eat like a local. Our local teams and host families know how to hygienically prepare healthy meals and they can also cater for food allergies or dietary requirements, if necessary.
How will this volunteer abroad experience benefit my son/daughter?
Our volunteers come away from their IVHQ program with new skills, a fresh perspective on life, and plenty of motivation and inspiration!
By volunteering overseas, your son/daughter will have the opportunity to:
- Live like a local and truly immerse themselves in a different culture
- Push themselves out of their comfort zone to become a more confident, independent, and mature adult
- Give back to communities in need, and help protect the environment and wildlife
- Nurture their sense of compassion, self-awareness, and gratitude
- Be exposed to people from a range of cultures, backgrounds, and nationalities
- Strengthen their communication skills, cultural intelligence, and global perspective
- Explore their career field or gain relevant experience to add to their resume
- Practice a different language
All of these qualities can help set your son/daughter apart in job and college interviews, as international experience is highly valued in today’s global economy.
Take a look at our reviews to see what a profound impact volunteering abroad has on our IVHQ volunteers.
What if my son/daughter doesn’t like the volunteer program?
Our flexible booking policy means that volunteers can make free changes to their dates, destination or project up to 14 days before their start date.
If a volunteer has concerns after having begun the volunteer program, they should discuss these firstly with the local IVHQ in-country team. If the concerns can’t be resolved, their IVHQ Program Manager can provide assistance to understand the specific nature of the problem and identify suitable solutions.
Top tips for parents of IVHQ volunteers
IVHQ’s TOP TIP FOR PARENTS: Make sure your son or daughter’s email address is assigned to their application so that they receive all pre-departure information, training and their program guide. It is very important that your child reads and fully understands all this information before they embark on their volunteer trip. This will ensure they know what to expect and how to prepare. It also helps prevent any issues from arising once they have arrived in-country!
Katy Stephens is mother to one of our volunteers from the UK - here’s her advice for parents/guardians…
My daughter, 17, did a trip to Bali from the UK (her first solo flights) with IVHQ and I was so scared!
- Call and ask questions beforehand, IVHQ will help you any way they can but they are very relaxed and you may not be. Try to relax with them!
- Be prepared, read everything IVHQ send you, we missed a few simple things and then had some last minute panics!
- Manage your son/daughter’s expectations, the local team made it really easy for the volunteers to get to know each other, but they may feel alone for a day or two.
- The Wi-Fi can be quite bad, don’t panic if you don’t hear from them for a while.
- Don’t believe all the stuff on the internet, my daughter saw no snakes, in the sea or otherwise!
- The food is very different, send them with Imodium, they will adjust!
- The local people are apparently incredibly friendly and relaxed. My daughter did not feel unsafe at any time.
- Take deep breaths, they will come back, having had the most amazing time!
Check out Sarah Jones’ review of her daughter’s experience with IVHQ in Kenya:
For all parents whose children are thinking of embarking on an adventure with IVHQ! My daughter went to Kenya last year. To say I was nervous was an understatement, she had only just turned 18 and, though she’d flown many times, this was her first solo trip! Ella was away a month and I was able to phone and Facetime on several occasions, which was very reassuring! Ella came home full of excitement from her adventures. She went on safari, did outreach and went to Mombasa. I am so glad I supported her through her adventures and know we cannot always protect them from harm, but at least I know I sent her away on her travels with a reputable agency.