Volunteer Health and Safety
Volunteering abroad is an impactful way to expand your horizons, learn about new cultures and make a valuable contribution in a community overseas. As the world’s leading volunteer travel provider, International Volunteer HQ is trusted to support the meaningful adventures of thousands of volunteers every year.
The safety and wellbeing of our volunteers has and always will be our number one priority. With more than 15 years experience, we are trusted by volunteers to ensure they are well prepared for their trip, and that we have processes and procedures in place to ensure risks are minimized.
We’ve always followed best practice and industry-leading procedures and we are proud to say that we have an unmatched record when it comes to keeping volunteers safe across all 40+ countries in which we operate programs.
How we’re keeping volunteers safe in a post Covid-19 world
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, we introduced a number of extra health and safety measures that have been implemented by all our local teams. These have been designed to minimize the risk of volunteers introducing a new infection to the local community, and minimize the risk of cross-infection between volunteers and from the local community.
These measures are in addition to our standard safety policies and are strictly enforced across every program to minimize the risks associated with Covid-19.
- All volunteers should bring a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) with them to use upon arrival to confirm they are negative for Covid-19 before joining the program. This is a safety measure to protect other volunteers and the local communities we work with.
- During orientation, each volunteer will be provided information about Covid-19 symptoms, local health facilities, and how to minimize possible infection.
- Increased frequency and depth of cleaning practices is taking place in both accommodation and placement locations.
- Antibacterial spray/wipes are present at all placements with surfaces wiped between volunteer shifts and individual/group changeovers.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be available at project sites and at the program base.
- We are asking volunteers to maintain a greater physical distance from one another in accommodation and placements.
- Symptomatic individuals will be isolated from others in accordance with local regulations and WHO guidelines. If symptoms persist or are of concern, individuals will be assisted in contacting a healthcare provider for testing, advice and/or treatment.
All of our volunteers should also take personal responsibility for their own health and the safety of others. Please do not travel if you are feeling ill or if there is a risk you may be an asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19 – for example, if you have been exposed to an infected individual within the 14 days before you start your IVHQ program.
Managing health and safety across our programs
We have a comprehensive approach to managing health and safety procedures and reducing risks across all of our programs. This gives volunteers the knowledge and confidence they need to stay safe, secure and healthy.
- As part of our B Corporation certification process, we regularly review and optimize our health and safety policies to ensure that our impact on volunteers, in-country teams and local communities remains a positive one.
- When programs are set up, we train the local team on best practice volunteer management, including industry-leading health and safety procedures.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ’s Risk Management Policy. We regularly visit our programs to meet with local teams and volunteers to ensure that this is being adhered to.
- All program staff are required to undertake first aid training and all host families and staff undergo thorough background checks.
- We actively seek feedback from volunteers and continually revise our health and safety procedures to ensure they are effective and meet expectations.
- All IVHQ volunteers receive access to and are strongly encouraged to take our online pre-departure training, which includes a module on health and safety.
- The IVHQ team provides wrap-around support from start to finish and our local teams are available in-country 24/7 for volunteers to voice any concerns and support any incidents that arise.
- We require volunteers to have travel insurance when they travel abroad with us. We can help you choose a provider that covers everything you need.
Protecting volunteers with the right travel insurance
IVHQ’s travel insurance is administered by CISI, one of the world’s leading providers of insurance for study abroad and international student travel. The cover plans have been customized specifically for our volunteers and is the same price for everyone, no matter where you live or where you are traveling to (with the exclusion of Cuba). There is also no minimum or maximum age limit on our cover.Learn more about IVHQ Travel Insurance
Providing comprehensive support from start to finish
Before you leave home
- All IVHQ volunteers receive exclusive access to pre-departure online training when they register for one of our programs. This is delivered through three interactive learning modules, one of which is dedicated to safety.
- Our training has a strong focus on risk areas that are not in the direct control of IVHQ or our local teams and how volunteers can mitigate such risks.
- We strongly encourage all volunteers to complete the training.
During your program
- All IVHQ volunteers are met by a member of our local team when arriving at their program destination and receive an airport transfer to ensure they arrive safely at their volunteer accommodation.
- Volunteers complete a Program Orientation, which includes a detailed briefing about risks that are specific to your location and helps you get to grips with the local culture and program objectives.
- Local teams are on hand 24-hours a day to provide direct support and volunteers are given contact details for these staff members so they can be reached quickly and easily.
- IVHQ staff also regularly check-in with volunteers at the accommodation to ensure everything is going well.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to our Risk Management Policy that has been specially designed to acknowledge that no two volunteer programs have the same risk profile.
- Risk mitigation plans for each program are monitored and updated through a formal review every year and compliance checks are completed in-person by visiting.
- All program staff members are required to undertake first aid training and each of our teams has basic first aid equipment on-hand should it be needed.
- All host families and all staff directly or indirectly employed by IVHQ undergo thorough background checks before we begin working with them.
- Every volunteer is provided with detailed briefings about what to do in the unlikely event of an emergency, and local teams have evacuation plans in place as well as support networks of skilled professionals that they can call upon should a need arise.
- Volunteers are given emergency contact phone numbers and they are supported to purchase local mobile phone connections so they can get help quickly if they need it.
- Our local teams are required to log every health and safety related incident on IVHQ’s global incident management database within 24 hours, regardless of how large or small it is, so that we can rapidly escalate support if necessary. This allows us to track the cause and response to every incident so we can implement procedures to prevent it happening again. We want to make sure we always have the right safety and emergency response measures in place for every possible incident.
- Emergency response procedures in each destination are reviewed, audited and refined on a regular basis and we’re constantly making improvements.
Wondering what it's like to volunteer in a world that has been impacted by Covid-19? Thousands of IVHQers have volunteered around the globe over the last two years, contributing their time and skills to make a real impact during this period of need. This experience means we know how to keep you safe and ensure you’re able to make a difference.
Find out how recent volunteers felt about additional health and safety measures on IVHQ programs, traveling without crowds of tourists, and what it's like to help local communities get back on their feet post-pandemic. Read these stories from IVHQers on the ground in Tanzania, Costa Rica, Portugal, Ghana and Romania…
AlexandreConstruction & Renovation in Costa Rica
Volunteering in Costa Rica at this time definitely made the experience more special. We did not queue anywhere and had the usually extremely busy national parks, paradise islands, wildlife sanctuaries, volcanoes and beaches all to ourselves. It was also really rewarding to give the local people working in tourism a little hope that international travel is resuming!Read about Alexandre's experience
Despite the Covid-19 situation, I feel very safe in the volunteer house, at my placement and being out and about in Portugal. The program has implemented a number of measures to make sure we’re all safe. For example, social distancing rules are in place, the house is cleaned very regularly, there’s hand sanitizer everywhere and we have to wear masks if we go into stores.Read about Emily's experience
There was no reason for me to fear as the local team made sure that I was taken care of. I was able to teach about hygiene at a school, educate a community about Covid-19, conduct over 200 malaria tests, take blood pressure screenings and provide first aid care to people who aren’t able to access a clinic. It was an amazing experience during the pandemic and I don’t regret a minute of it.Read about Tonja's experience