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Volunteering Abroad: Top Tips

Article by Jenna Rainey February 15, 2017

© Jenna Rainey

Are you interested in giving back and helping others? Do you have a real desire to travel? Maybe you have a cause you care about or are interested in and want to discover life in other cultures? If your answer is yes, it sounds like volunteering abroad could be right for you.

Earlier this year I made my own transnational voyage to teach English in the rural heartland of Bali, Indonesia. The decision to make such a journey can be tough, particularly when weighing up the cost of the programmes, alongside moral obligations, personal safety and so on. There is definitely a lot to think about, but if you do your research and voice your concerns with friends and family, then you should feel more comfortable in finalising plans and begin to feel excited about your adventures abroad.

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© Jenna Rainey

There are a variety of voluntary organisations out there for those in search of opportunities and adventure. But no one could blame you for feeling unsure about which of the providers to trust. I’ve tried to narrow down the search for any one who’s interested by providing my own top five:

However, if you are still uncertain, you could also try asking around and joining some online forums to find out if anyone else has experience of using the company before. Many sites will also contain verified logos from travel operators or mention advertising from media outlets, which can offer an additional source of trust in the organisation.

If you’re still questioning the benefits of international voluntary work, then here are a couple of obvious benefactors that may sway you:

  • Skills. It’s an opportunity to gain new skills and utilise them in your placement
  • Social. Often the people you meet on projects can become new found friends.
  • Perspective. Placements open your eyes to other cultures, landscapes, and beliefs.
  • Impact. You’re making a positive difference to the community you work in.
  • Feel Good Factor. Making others feel good often has a positive effect on you.

There are a vast number of different placements and opportunities to choose from, including community work, teaching, conservation, social care, animal rescue, childcare and more! Make sure to choose a project that’s close to your heart, or follow the course of a project that may aid your career. But perhaps you’re out to challenge yourself and try something out of your comfort zone. Whichever you decide on, ensure that you maximise the opportunity. Whilst some people choose to undertake voluntary work more permanently, many do it as a one-off, so you’ll want to make it memorable for all the right reasons!

 

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© Jenna Rainey

Before you go off do Google your dream destination; I’ve compiled my personal three top tips:

  • Get Organised. Voluntary work can span from two weeks to 24, depending on your preference, so it’s critical that you get all the necessary plans in place sooner rather than later. Remember to arrange the essentials such as visas, identification, vaccinations, transportation, travel insurance and currency.
  • Keep in contact. While it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself in a serious accident, caught in an airstrike or a natural disaster, these things do occur frequently across foreign countries and you are always better to be safe than sorry. So take a list of addresses, telephone extensions, names and mobile numbers (particularly for your in-country contacts, project provider, accommodation, airline, local embassy etc).
  • Apply Common Sense. When heading off on a solo adventure or exploring a new place, it’s easy to act on instinct or behave as you would at home. It may sound like it needn’t be said, but if you’re out alone or feel uncomfortable in a situation for any given reason, just remember to use your common sense.

I hope these tips and pieces of advice prove helpful for you when deciding on volunteering abroad – happy travels!

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