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Information for Parents

Volunteer Abroad information for Parents

We hear from thousands of parents and guardians every year who want to know that their sons or daughters are going to be well looked after while participating on an IVHQ volunteer abroad program. Regardless of the age of our volunteers, we find that their parents(and their extended family and friends) are always interested in learning more about how IVHQ works, and what steps we take to support volunteers to have a safe and enjoyable time abroad.

Here are the answers to questions we get asked most often by parents:

About IVHQ

About the Experience

About Keeping Safe

Volunteer in Costa Rica - IVHQ volunteer information for Parents

Who is IVHQ?

Dan Radcliffe established IVHQ in 2007 following his own experience volunteering abroad in Kenya. He felt that the existing providers of volunteer travel were charging fees that were too high, and there was little transparency about what portion of these fees supported the local community. Dan remains IVHQ’s Executive Director and he is supported at our head office in New Zealand by an incredible team that is passionate about volunteering abroad and the power of meaningful travel. As an organization, IVHQ is focused on the development of responsible, safe and meaningful volunteer opportunities. We deliver this through robust policies and standards across the organization and a support team of passionate Program Managers who provide exceptional service and assistance to volunteers from all over the world.

If IVHQ is based in New Zealand, how do you offer volunteer programs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific?

IVHQ provides safe and affordable volunteer programs by partnering with organizations based in the countries where we offer programs. These local organizations are in the best position to see where volunteers are genuinely needed and the local staff are in the best position to provide guidance, safe supervision and support to our volunteers.

One of the major strengths of IVHQ is our careful selection process when choosing our partner organizations to provide the high quality volunteer programs that we offer. Every program that IVHQ offers has been personally inspected and selected by a senior manager from IVHQ. We have experienced the programs first-hand, we have vetted the local teams and provided comprehensive IVHQ program management training and guidance around our requirements for risk management, emergency procedures and supervision. Our local teams are well equipped to provide exceptional volunteer programs, and to take care of our volunteers in-country. We support our local teams to provide high quality programs and our staff personally visit each one to audit their performance regularly.

How old do volunteers need to be to volunteer with IVHQ?

Volunteers between the ages of 16 and 18 years old can volunteer independently on select IVHQ programs with guardian consent. Minors who are volunteering as part of a group with adult minders or with a parent, guardian or family member over the age of 18, are eligible to participate on an IVHQ program. All volunteers under the age of 18 need to provide IVHQ with parental consent and two character references and may be asked to provide further documentation to our local team.

Volunteer information for Parents - Volunteers in Cambodia

How do you select your volunteer accommodation?

All IVHQ accommodation facilities undergo rigorous inspections and are continually monitored by the local team. On some IVHQ programs, volunteers are accommodated in homestays with local host families and other IVHQ volunteers. Many of our host families have been hosting international guests for many years and are experienced in the process and expectations involved in hosting IVHQ volunteers.

What will the food be like?

Our local teams provide a range of local meals that are freshly prepared. It’s highly likely that the food provided will differ from what volunteers are used to eating at home, so it’s important that your son/daughter is willing to try new things. 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.

Will there be other volunteers on the program?

As the world’s most popular volunteer travel company, IVHQ ensures that volunteers are always in the company of other international volunteers on our programs. Volunteers are accommodated together in either homestays or volunteer houses, and on the majority of programs, volunteers are placed in small teams at volunteer projects and can expect to be working with at least two other IVHQ volunteers.

Will there be supervision on the program?

Volunteers are overseen by our local teams in each program location. They are provided with training and direction throughout the program and they are supervised when in the volunteer house or on their program placement. However, it’s important to note that supervision doesn’t replace good common sense and volunteers are always responsible for their own behavior. Volunteers are also responsible for their own safety when they are not with our program or placement staff and this includes weekends and evenings when they are exploring their program location.

How do volunteers travel to their volunteer placements?

Volunteers generally travel to and from their placements each day in small groups, either on foot, or bike, or via public transport (buses, taxis, tuk tuks etc). Our local staff accompany volunteers in traveling to their placements on the first day to ensure they are comfortable with the process.

Essential volunteer information for parents of IVHQ volunteers

What do volunteers do during the weekends?

On the majority of IVHQ programs, volunteers participate in volunteer work from Monday to Friday and have the weekends free to explore more of the country their program is based in. Many volunteers take the opportunity to travel further afield with other IVHQ volunteers and our local staff are able to provide guidance, recommendations and advice to volunteers in organizing their weekend excursions. If volunteers would prefer to stay at the volunteer accommodation during the weekends, they are welcome to do so and the local staff will be present for support and supervision.

How will my son/daughter know when to book flights to the volunteer program?

It is important that your son/daughter registers on his/her chosen IVHQ program before booking flights to the program destination. A volunteer’s place is not confirmed on an IVHQ program until the volunteer has registered by paying the Registration Fee. See our How To Get Started page for further information.

As an IVHQ volunteer, your son/daughter will be supported by a Volunteer Program Manager, who is an expert in all things related to volunteering on the specific program your child is set to experience. This means that once they are Registered, they will be guided by their Program Manager to ensure they make a number of essential preparations, including booking flights, organizing travel and insurance and completing a criminal background check. Volunteers are encouraged to enter their arrival details into their MyIVHQ Profile once booked.

What vaccinations does my son/daughter need to get before leaving home?

It’s very important that a volunteer has all the necessary vaccinations well in advance of heading abroad and the vaccinations required vary from country to country. Detailed information and advice is provided in the Program Information Booklet and by the dedicated Program Manager.

How can my son/daughter obtain a criminal background check to bring to the program?

Your son/daughter can request a background check from your local police department and they will provide guidance on the process and costs. Volunteers are required to bring a copy of their background check to provide to our local team during the volunteer program orientation. Please note, volunteers on some programs are required to present a national background check (rather than a local background check), so it is important volunteers check the requirements specific to their program in the IVHQ Information Booklet.

How much money does my son/daughter need to bring?

The amount of money a volunteer will require can vary greatly depending on the volunteer’s preferences and travel plans. Some of the expenses for a volunteer to consider when thinking about how much money they’ll need include transport to and from the volunteer placement each day, bottled water, basic supplies (such as pharmacy items), language lessons, tourist or cultural activities, meals purchased outside of the program, souvenirs and airport drop-off upon completion of the program. During the volunteer program orientation, volunteers will be taken to an ATM machine and shown where they can safely withdraw cash in the local currency.

How can I contact my son/daughter on the program?

After registering on an IVHQ volunteer abroad program, all volunteers are connected with a dedicated IVHQ Program Manager to provide them with all the information they need to prepare for their upcoming program. Registered IVHQ volunteers are also provided with access to a comprehensive IVHQ Information Booklet specific to their chosen program. This booklet provides the address and contact phone number of the local staff should you need to contact your son/daughter in country. During the program orientation, volunteers have the opportunity to purchase a local SIM card for their mobile phones, so they can connect with other volunteers and staff in-country, or with friends and family back home.

What happens when my son/daughter arrives in their chosen country?

They’ll be met by a friendly member of our local team at the airport. All IVHQ volunteers are required to provide their flight details to their IVHQ Program Manager by entering them into their MyIVHQ Profile and then their Program Manager will arrange an airport pick-up with our local staff. If your son/daughter’s flight is delayed, he/she will need to contact the local team by referring to the contact details in the IVHQ Information Booklet, so that they know to reschedule the airport pick-up.

How will my son/daughter get to the airport after completing the program?

During the volunteer program orientation, volunteers are provided with information on how to organize their return trip to the airport upon completing their program. The cost of the return trip to the airport is not included in the Program Fee, however the local team will be happy to assist your son/daughter in arranging transport to the airport.

Find volunteer abroad information for parents

How will my son/daughter be supported to keep safe on the program?

Each of our programs has a Risk Management plan which seeks to identify and address potential risks, and each program has emergency procedures in place to ensure any incidents are managed appropriately. You can find more detailed information on our approach to Risk Management here and we audit every program at least annually to ensure compliance.

We’re also conscious that traveling abroad can be daunting and we’ve developed a detailed set of training materials which help volunteers to get appropriately prepared before leaving home. The materials include a full module which provides guidance and advice on how to keep safe while abroad, with a particular focus on risks that that volunteers may face while they are not under the supervision of our teams, such as when they are enjoying their ‘free time’ or traveling.

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.

What happens if my son/daughter requires medical attention on the program?

Should your son/daughter require medical attention while on an IVHQ program, the local staff will accompany them to the nearest clinic or hospital to ensure adequate care is received. The local staff are available to volunteers 24/7 and should be notified immediately if a volunteer requires urgent care. All volunteers are required to ensure that they purchase adequate travel insurance and that their policy includes emergency medical coverage, for the unlikely event that they need to make a claim while on an IVHQ program. Volunteers should carry details about their insurance policy and provider with them at all times.

In the unlikely event of serious injury occurring, our local team’s top priority is on ensuring the right care is provided. They will also contact a volunteer’s ‘emergency contact’ and IVHQ senior management as soon as possible.

For further insights from IVHQ Parents, please see our IVHQ Reviews For Parents, By Parents blog post, or contact us if you have any questions. Thanks to Sarah Jones for sharing this 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. When she was in the planning stage I helped to research the various agencies that supported this type of trip. When I came across IVHQ, initially I was quite skeptical because the price was so competitive, the reviews were fantastic though! She applied, was accepted and following me making her have every vaccination known to man, we were at the airport waving her off! 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 is honest to say that at times she was very homesick but the support she got from fellow travellers was fantastic. The local agency transferred her from her first homestay with no problem as she felt she was too remote and isolated. Ella came home full of excitement from her adventures. She went on safari, did outreach and went to Mombasa. Life in these countries is very different to ours and yes it can be basic, but my daughter knew this from the start, so just accepted it. 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.

And Sue Knight for sharing this insight from her daughter’s time with IVHQ in Guatemala:

Thank you and all of your Guatemala staff and families for being part of such an amazing program - what incredible opportunities you provide for young adults! Everyone is so helpful and patient with us ‘over paranoid’ parents! I have already recommended your program to several of my friends and colleagues who are interested in having their kids experience an opportunity like this.

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!