At IVHQ, each of our 300+ volunteer programs are run by local organisations, and behind each organisation is a passionate group of individuals who speak the local language, know the surrounding areas and understand how volunteers can best help their communities.
Instead of employing Westerners to lead our volunteer programs abroad, we partner with local NGOs and individuals to provide guidance, advice, supervision and support to our volunteers. By working with passionate local teams, IVHQ program fees go directly to the organisations hosting volunteers, which increases employment and boosts economies in local communities - a win-win for everyone involved.
Following Covid-19, many of the organisations we partner with have relied heavily on the help of IVHQ volunteers to maintain operations and keep initiatives afloat over the last year and half. From Peru to Zanzibar, volunteers are playing a crucial role in supporting wildlife conservation initiatives, providing medical assistance to those in need and supporting remote and in-person learning for children.
Edward & the Ghana team
When we caught up with Edward who runs the local organisation and team in Ghana, he highlighted the importance of Medical and Healthcare Outreach volunteers and the critical role they’ve been playing in keeping local communities healthy.
Hear from Edward and his team on the impact IVHQers have had in Ghana over the last year:
IVHQ: How do you feel about the impact volunteers have in your local community?
Edward: Things have been very difficult in Ghana over the past year due to Covid. We didn’t see any volunteers for 9 months in 2020, and we’re very grateful to have volunteers starting to come back this year as they add a lot of value to the volunteers we work with.
There is a great need for volunteers in Ghana right now especially, as our programs are so vital to the communities that we work with. In particular, our Medical and Healthcare Outreach programs are critical to providing medical care and health education to communities that otherwise would not have access to these services. When we have a lack of volunteers, it means members of the community lack access to basic medical attention, such as malaria testing/treatment and wound care.
On a recent malaria testing day, volunteers gave 182 malaria tests with 76 of those returning a positive result. Malaria remains one of Ghana’s biggest health threats, so without these volunteers, local communities would be at risk.
Volunteers also provide wound treatment to vulnerable communities. Many of these people have lived with open wounds for months or years, and with the help of volunteers, these individuals are treated and educated on wound dressing and care.
We encourage volunteers to come to Ghana now to see the beautiful sights with less crowds, but also to see what an impact they can have on our local communities. Since we have less volunteers at the moment, you will always have something to do and will be able to form great friendships within the local communities.Make a difference in Ghana
Jade & the Jamaica team
IVHQ’s programs in Jamaica are run by Jade. She is the founder and managing director of the local organisation we partner with, and supports all of our volunteers on the ground with the help of her dedicated team.
Jade grew up in Jamaica but moved away to study in the UK. She returned years later as part of her International Development degree, she was exposed to impoverished areas of Jamaica and wanted to help. From this, she launched her organisation in 2013 to showcase a side of the Caribbean rarely seen by tourists. The aim is to show volunteers the beauty of Jamaica while making a positive impact on the local community amongst families, local businesses and more.
IVHQ: Why are volunteers important to your organisation, and why is now a good time to volunteer in Jamaica?
Jade: The pandemic has changed the way we operate as an organisation, but IVHQ volunteers have really helped us adapt. The volunteers on our Kindergarten, Child & Youth Development and Teaching English & School Support programs have helped create learning videos, lesson plans and interactive worksheets to support remote learning. This has helped teachers share new and novel learning materials to keep children engaged in education.
Volunteers on our Business and Community Development program assisted with funding proposals and business plans for some of our local entrepreneurs. Thanks to two of our volunteers, a grant proposal was successful and our local rum distillery was able to buy new equipment.
Now that most of our projects have reopened, we really need volunteers to help with the backlog that has built up due to the absence of both local staff and volunteers. By volunteering now, you can help get important projects back on their feet. Plus, our projects really miss the fun side of meeting new volunteers who bring new ideas and perspectives which they are eager to put into practice.
Outside of volunteering, this is such a unique time to visit Jamaica. Tourist numbers are still low, meaning you have more time and space to explore away from crowds - it’s amazing how the island’s nature has regenerated itself!Give back in Jamaica
South Africa, Africa
Johan & the South Africa team
Based in South Africa’s stunning Kruger National Park, IVHQ’s Wildlife Conservation program is led by a team of experts who are dedicated to protecting Africa’s ‘Big 5’ and their natural habitats. The organisation is run by Johan - he grew up in Pretoria, South Africa and founded the organisation based on his passion for nature, wilderness and open spaces.
Find out how IVHQers are helping preserve Kruger’s wildlife while supporting the local economy:
IVHQ: How do volunteers support your wildlife initiatives in Kruger National Park?
Johan: We are immensely grateful for the IVHQ volunteers that have joined us in 2022. Without them, our organisation would not have reopened yet. South Africa has suffered dramatically due to the pandemic, as tourism has literally stopped around the country. Tourism is a very large source of income for many people in South Africa, and the effects of Covid-19 have been very damaging.
With the help of volunteers who have joined our program over the last year, we have been able to start the process of recovering the industry. We have been able to put our staff who have been laid off back in the field doing their jobs and once again earning an income. In Kruger and Sodwana, we’ve resumed work with our local suppliers in the community, helping them recover their businesses.
Now is the best time to volunteer abroad on our Kruger project! We’ve spent the last year refining our system for delivery of an awesome outdoor learning experience for volunteers and have created amazing conservation training content which we can’t wait to share with you!Explore South Africa
Anthony & the Belize team
The Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO world heritage site and the second largest reef system in the world, home to an incredible array of marine life. In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #14: Life Below Water, IVHQ launched the Marine Conservation Volunteer Program in partnership with a local marine conservation organisation whose aim is to preserve the reef through education and hands-on protection efforts.
Anthony is a wildlife biologist and the director of the local marine conservation organisation in Belize. He’s passionate about environmental protection and education and works with each of our IVHQ volunteers, providing scuba diving guidance while teaching them about Belize’s marine ecosystem.
IVHQ: How are volunteers helping protect and preserve Belize’s marine life?
Anthony: Our work is funded through environmentally minded eco-volunteers who come to our unique island to assist in our various marine conservation projects. Without the help and funding of volunteers, these conservation efforts would not be possible. Our ultimate goal is to preserve and manage the Belize Barrier Reef for generations to come by inspiring, educating, and encouraging change. Our volunteers truly are the change they wish to see in the world!
IVHQ volunteers play a critical role in supporting the organisation’s conservation efforts. Since November 2020, we’ve achieved the following:
- Removed 5126 invasive Lionfish from the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve Park waters
- Removed 6,742 pounds of plastic and trash from the ocean via our volunteer beach cleanups
- 214 baby sea turtles successfully hatched and returned to the sea from their natural island – Tom Owens Caye
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa
Alan & the Victoria Falls team
Based on a private game reserve in Zimbabwe, IVHQ’s Wildlife Conservation Program in Victoria Falls is run by a passionate group of conservationists who want to share Africa’s natural beauty with the world. The organisation is run by Alan and his team who give volunteers the chance to encounter Africa’s iconic wildlife while actively participating in its conservation through education and hands-on preservation.
We checked in with the team on the ground to see how IVHQ volunteers have been supporting their local conservation initiatives:
IVHQ: How have volunteers helped with preservation on the game reserve over the last year?
Alan: The global pandemic has weighed heavily on our conservation program, and the decline of tourism has hugely impacted the local economy and our conservation efforts. Unfortunately, tourism and conservation work hand-in-hand, so we’ve had to rely on donor funding which does not cover all costs.
It is for this reason that there is a greater need than ever for volunteers, not only for program fees that are used to fund our reserve and black rhino conservation program, but also to assist in the daily operations and protection of our IPZ (Intensive Protection Zone).
With the help of IVHQ’s volunteers over the last year, we have:
- Raised enough money to build new teacher accommodation for our community primary school
- Upgraded our perimeter fence which is vital in the protection of the black rhino and other species
- Collected DNA samples from rhino dung that is being used in a new research program to identify these animals to be transferred to larger reserves
- Improved our road network within the reserve along and implemented a anti-soil erosion method
Peru - Lima, South America
Maddie & the Peru - Lima team
In Peru, IVHQ partners with a local family-run organisation that oversees our Community Support, Medical and Childcare programs. Maddi recently took over the non-profit from her mother-in-law who founded the organisation over 15 years ago to help spread love and change the lives of others.
Here’s Maddi’s story and her input on volunteering:
Maddie:Being Australian, volunteers generally ask me how I ended up running the Lima program. I was a volunteer on IVHQ’s Teaching English program back in 2013 which is how I met my now husband whose mother owned the organisation. Fast forward and here I am 8 years later, married with two beautiful children and managing the Lima program with my husband. Thanks to IVHQ, I have my beautiful Australian/Peruvian family.
IVHQ: What benefits have volunteers brought to local communities in Lima?
Maddie: Peru has been hit hard by the pandemic, and with little government assistance, poverty has drastically increased - buildings are falling apart, families are struggling and due to hospitals and clinics being inundated, many are not receiving general medical attention. Organizations that would normally support these communities have lost funding and have not been able to continue their work.
We rely heavily on volunteers to help stimulate the economy and support locals. Volunteers give their time and skills to support the communities, and in return, their volunteer program provides employment opportunities for taxi drivers, program coordinators, homestay families and more.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the difference our volunteers have made for families and the hope they are giving them that things will get better! Our organisation in particular has worked in the same community for over 14 years, and everyone has expressed their joy in welcoming volunteers back again. They are so thankful to have extra hands to help them rebuild their community and continue to move forward.Make an impact in Peru
Mohammed & the Zanzibar team
In Zanzibar, IVHQ’s volunteer programs center around wildlife preservation, including Rainforest and Coastal Conservation in Jozani and Turtle Conservation in Nungwi. The local organizations behind these programs not only protect wildlife, but also focus on Zanzibar’s impoverished farming population and the relationship between the two.
Hear from the team on the ground about how volunteers are supporting the local community and economy through wildlife conservation:
IVHQ: Why are volunteers needed in Zanzibar at the moment and how are they making a difference?
Local team: Due to lower tourism income over the last year, the government’s anti-poaching programs have been temporarily stopped, meaning a lot of Zanzibar’s unique wildlife is endangered and at risk.
Volunteers on our Rainforest Conservation program program have been instrumental in protecting our land tortoises - particularly the Aldabra giant tortoise species.
In the early 1900’s, four of these tortoises were sent from the Seychelles, so all of the existing Aldabra are descendants of those original four. Very few remain, and the species is considered vulnerable and on the IUCN Red List. Volunteers help preserve the remaining tortoises and their environment, specifically caring for recent offspring which are 3 and 7 months old.
Another benefit of having volunteers is to generate income for impoverished farmers in southern Zanzibar. In this area, there are no tourist accommodations, so they rely on tourists coming in to observe the giant tortoises. Volunteers help upkeep the area so that tourism can continue.Volunteer in Zanzibar
Costa Rica, Guatemala & Peru - Cusco
Celeste & the Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru - Cusco team
IVHQ’s programs in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru are all run by the same passionate team whose mission is to provide educational travel experiences across Latin America, which enable volunteers to give back to people and animals in need.
When we caught up with team leader Celeste, she explained the impact our volunteers have had over the last year and how they’ve helped rebuild local economies and communities.
IVHQ: Your team looks after some of our most popular programs - how have our volunteers helped local communities and initiatives across Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru?
Celeste: We are excited to have volunteers back working with our team and supporting our projects, side-by-side. The lockdown period was lonely and had a very negative impact on people and animals in need. Poverty increased around the world, and Latin America certainly was not spared in this. For these reasons, there is an even greater need for volunteers now and in the immediate future.
Volunteers always add a lot of value to both our programs and the local community they are serving. Their impact is real, even when they are a small part of a long-term program. The most impactful projects are Construction and Education, because these are truly community development efforts that move the population forward. In addition, projects in Healthcare, Conservation, and Agriculture require the hands-on, daily interaction that volunteers bring.
Without volunteers, the projects and communities we work with cannot advance their missions and progress in the right direction.Make an impact in Latin America
”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!”