Travel and volunteer.
Explore the world, give back to a community, build relationships with locals and feel awesome doing it.
Except there’s one problem. Scams! Certain volunteer programs charge hefty fees, and your hard-earned dollars don’t necessarily go to people who need it most.
Since not every travel company has your best interests in mind, it’s worthwhile to ask a few questions before signing up for a volunteer vacation.
Are certain skills or training required?
Quality volunteer programs will ask for your resume or CV. Thoughtful organizations will want to use your talents and place you in a position that puts your expertise to use. Be weary of travel organizers who happily take your cash without asking you about YOU – your capabilities, experiences, preferences and expectations.
Is an orientation or language class offered?
Your volunteer-travel operator should give you basic cultural tips and language classes so you can be effective and respectful to the community you’re entering. Learning basics such as “Hello,” “Thank you” and “My name is…” can go a long way when you’re serving in another country.
What is the minimum time commitment?
If volunteer sessions are “open,” meaning you can come and go as you please, you might not have the same experience as with an organization that requires you to be on-site for a specified length of time. Also consider the work you’re wanting to do: Help teachers? Build homes? Paint fences? The two-week schedule your at-home boss has approved might sync perfectly with monsoon season or a community festival. Check local calendars for holidays and political events before booking airfare.
If something goes wrong, who should I contact?
If you’re stricken with an ailment or suddenly have to rush home, you need to know who to call. Is there a team leader or manager who can make necessary arrangements for you to get home? Will you be staying with a host family who can speak English? Do you have access to a 24/7 phone number? Even though you’re traveling to help, you want to make sure your needs are taken care of. Prepare for the worst, expect the best.
Where does my money go?
Although money can be an uncomfortable topic, don’t be afraid to ask! Dishing out cash without a clear understanding of a company’s framework may not contribute to the kind of sustainable development you had in mind when you imagined traveling overseas to volunteer. Reputable organizations won’t get their feathers ruffled if you ask about organization and hierarchy, and most non-profits make their annual numbers public.
Finally, if you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask. Is important to understand the place you’re going and the work you’ll be doing. Research the company’s history or contact former volunteers to make sure you’re choosing the best option for you.