How to Choose the Right International Volunteer Program – Part II
In Part 1 of How to choose the right International Volunteer Program for you, we looked at the questions you need to ask yourself before beginning your search for a volunteering opportunity. In this Part 2; Kristy shares a set of questions that you need to ask the organizers of the volunteer program or the organisation you are considering volunteering with; to help you find the best match.
Once you’ve thought about why you want to volunteer, and your preferences for when, where and whether you’d like to share the experience – here are some further questions to help you select the right program for you.
SELECTING A VOLUNTEER PROGRAM and DESTINATION
1. Will I be safe and secure?
- What are the safety precautions and am I comfortable with the level of safety provided?
2. Are there any eligibility requirements?
- Are there any minimum or maximum age levels?
Are there any fitness requirements?
Are there any specific skill / experience requirements?
Is there an application or selection processes? Note: often longer-term programs (e.g. 6-12months) require an application process.
3. Are there any language requirements or opportunities to learn the local language?
4. What support will I get before I depart to volunteer?
- Is there any support to help me prepare for the experience (including potential culture shock)?Are there any past volunteers I could speak to about their experiences?
5. What support will I get while I am overseas?
- Is the program facilitated or will I be working independently?Will I be part of a team?
6. Will I get support after I return to my home country?
- Will support be available for potential reverse culture shock?
Will I be able to connect with other volunteers and initiatives once I’m home?
7. Will I be able to see ongoing progress after I return to my home country?
- Will development projects continue without volunteers?
Will information be available for me to see subsequent progress of projects/communities?
8. Are local (in-country) community members engaged in the project(s)?
- Are local communities open to hosting volunteers?
Are local community leaders involved?
Are locals employed?
Will my contribution help to build skills, assets or knowledge for locals?
9. What level of interaction will I get with local community members and beneficiaries?
10. Do I want to use my professional or academic skills or experience something new?
- Are there opportunities to use my existing skills and experience?
Are there opportunities to learn new skills and experience new things?
11. Is there a particular aspect of community development I’m interested in or do I want exposure to a holistic model?
- Is there a cause I’m particularly passionate about?
12. Do I want to contribute to an existing project or get involved in something new?
13. What’s the end goal of the community development project(s)?
- Is the project building skills, assets, knowledge and leaders for local community members?
Is there an exit strategy or are communities dependent on the volunteer services?
14. What will my accommodation be like?
- Will it be provided for or do I need to find myself?
15. What will the transport be like?
- Do I need to organise any transport myself?
16. Do I want to do any additional travels while I am overseas?
- Do I want to experience local activities beyond my volunteer contribution?
Are any local activities included in the program?
Can anyone assist me to understand options in the local area or to organize additional travels?
17. What costs are involved?
- Is my personal investment going to cover all of my expenses so there is no financial burden on local communities?
What is included in the cost of the program?
What out of pocket expenses are excluded from the fees?
What type of money should I use for out of pocket expenses?
18. Are there any fundraising expectations in addition to the costs?
- Is fundraising something I’m interested in or not?
19. Are there any visa requirements?
- Can I obtain necessary visa(s) on arrival or does this need to be done prior to leaving my home country?
Can someone assist me with organizing visas?
20. Are there any vaccination requirements or recommendations?
- Have I allowed enough time for the vaccinations I want/need (best to check with a travel doctor)?
21. Is there anything I specifically need to organize myself?
There may be other things you want to take into consideration and some of these questions may not matter to you. This should give you a good start on your mission to do more good.
Best wishes choosing the right international volunteer program for you and thanks for ‘being the change’!
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