Increasingly more people are choosing to volunteer abroad as their way of travel, helping underprivileged communities overseas. Students and working professionals can all benefit from and enjoy this way of travelling, taking time off to do some good.
Even though it is increasing in popularity there are still many who are unsure how to go about arranging volunteering abroad.
Below are some questions to ask yourself and things to consider before settling on a volunteer project.
Where Do You Want To Volunteer?
Your chosen volunteer destination will affect your volunteering immensely, from the projects available to the budget you can expect to pay.
Countries in Asia are better suited to travellers on a budget if you will be travelling after your volunteering. It makes sense to include some time spent backpacking in Asia as it is full of affordable countries and low-cost airlines. In Asia, hostels, hotels and guest houses as well as things to do are reasonably priced and typically don’t inflate for tourists. Unlike in countries in Africa where accommodation and activities are cheap for locals, but tourists can pay ten times more for the same thing. Thoroughly research the cost of a destination before deciding on it and don’t blindly follow prices of activities on Trip Advisor.
The country you choose to volunteer in will dictate what projects are available. There will be no marine conservation projects in a landlocked country and you will struggle to find teaching English in a country where the main spoken language is English. Developed countries have less building and health care projects as there is less of a need for help that in less developed countries.
How Do You Want To Volunteer?
Consider the type of project you would enjoy most. Your previous experience and skills may affect this, some volunteers feel comfortable knowing they have done something before, whereas other volunteers enjoy the thrill of getting away and learning something completely new. There is no end of volunteer options available now, with more and more popping up every day!
Teaching projects are not always set up in schools, sometimes they are in more informal surroundings. Volunteers help with either teaching English or teaching a subject of their choice. Often teaching abroad is more relaxed than in western schools and involves more arts and crafts activities and general play work than structured timetabled lessons.
Building projects are primarily in less developed countries or in areas after a natural disaster. Volunteers can help building homes for the locals or more popular is building schools for children.
Health projects are interesting and great for anyone with a background in the medial industry, although not always required, administrating health checks to locals, dressing wounds and shadowing professionals.
How Long Can You Volunteer For?
There is no point on volunteering in a country which is over 24 hours away if you can only spare a week. By the time you have settled into the project, it’ll be time to pack up and come home and some projects may require an additional seven-hour bus journey on top!
Long term volunteering is not only more affordable with project fees often dropping the longer you stay, but it also allows volunteers to get more out of their stay. You may even get your final weeks heavily discounted or even for free. Really get to know the project you are on and give for longer. Children require longer to get to know a new person and feel more comfortable in their company, long stay volunteering is often favoured when helping children. It is easier to find shorter stay volunteering on projects which are quick to learn.
Organisation or Direct
The two main ways of volunteering abroad are either through an organisation or going directly to a charity. Organisations help volunteers to plan and prepare for their trip. They can help with every part, from gaining an understanding of how you will be volunteering and what programme is best for you to your pre-departure organisation: visas, flights and immunizations.
Organisations also have in-country support teams who are there for volunteers throughout the duration of their stay. They can help with volunteering, getting to and from the projects and organising trips at the weekend.
Going directly to a charity bypasses the cost of an organisation and can be attractive to those travelling on a very tight budget. However, when going direct there is a lot less support and most of the preparation is left to the volunteer to research and ask the right questions. First time volunteers and those who are less independent or simply too busy to organise everything may prefer volunteering through an organisation as there is less to worry about, more structure and support.
By Astrid Halliday who loves travelling and especially getting away overseas to help build and develop a community. Volunteering many times with Original Volunteers and also with Habitat For Humanity, she loves sharing her passion and encouraging others to travel in a similar way.