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Volunteering Abroad – A How to Guide

Volunteering abroad can not only show you the world around you but also allow you to experience new things and cultures, take opportunities not offered at home or in different areas and allow you to exercise skills which are left otherwise undetected or unused back at home. Volunteering in a different country and helping others can make a huge difference not only to the communities you become involved in but also your personal self.

Types of Voluntary Work Abroad

There are many ways that you can volunteer abroad, some you pay to experience and others are free, but they range from:

Which organisations can I volunteer abroad with?

The safest way to volunteer abroad is through an organisation that specialises in sending people out to where they want to go or are needed. Programmes such as Projects Abroad, GVI UK, BUNAC and other gap year organisations such as RealGap or PlanMyGapYear provide potential volunteers with information and descriptions of jobs, locations and the situation your voluntary work would be helping.

How do I choose which voluntary work I do?

Once you've Googled every possible voluntary project that is suited to you, and realised there's a good amount of options to take - what do you do next? It's important to ask yourself a few key questions about each potential volunteering opportunity. For example, if a volunteering opportunity offered you great accommodation and work for free, it doesn't make it legitimate or safe.

How are funds for the charity/organisation being used?

Try to gain an understanding of how the project is funded and how it operates. Even if they're a little disorganised, projects should be very open about the use of their funds and contributions if they have nothing to hide.

Is your volunteer role costing a local in the community a job?

It's extremely important that your presence at the core of a community means that you are not putting another local out of a paid job. Make sure that you are contributing knowledge and skills to the community that someone else who is resident there cannot.

Is your voluntary work period worthwhile for the project?

If you are considering a short period of voluntary work, even if the work is free, make sure you aren't costing the project any extra investment in you - such as time or money in extensive training if it isn't going to be worth it for them. Make sure you're giving more than enough in your time there as opposed to taking more.

Google and look up stories of other or former volunteers

There's no better way of getting an understanding of what to expect on a certain project than reading up on blogs and forum posts about how other's experiences were. You can also ask them questions about the project, the role you yourself can play, the community, the accommodation, food etc. If something doesn't sound quite right, trust your instinct and walk away - there are plenty of other legitimate opportunities looking for volunteers to help.

How do I fundraise for paid volunteering?

Some companies and volunteering organisations actually charge you for the opportunity to visit the country and contribute to a specific project. This sounds weird, but the money actually pays for things like any training you might need, admin costs, accommodation and food whilst you're there. You'll also need a little extra money to pay for transport, extras and luxuries.

How much will my volunteering trip cost?

Just like any other form of travel, you'll need to save to reach the amount that your volunteering trip is going to cost. Things like flights, and the package deal of the actual project mean that you'll soon have a target amount of money to save, which makes things a lot easier.

Once you know what your target is, it's easier to save for as you can easily measure how much more you need, or how far away from your target you are. You can use fundraising techniques like cake sales or washing cars to raise a little extra cash or just make sure you cut back on the home luxuries and save any spare income you have to ensure you hit your target amount before you depart. A good way to save is by saving little and often, that way you don't have to make any major saving cuts to your income before you leave, and you can make sure you have enough before it comes to your departure date.

What about free volunteering trips?

Free volunteering provides people who don't want to pay to work in their own free time. The thought of paying what is often thousands of pounds in order to give up your time for a free cause doesn't appeal to a great deal of people, so free volunteering gives those people an opportunity to give what else they can to help those in need.

Although it says 'free', free volunteering does not mean the cost of your accommodation, food and transportation are seemingly cost-free, as in paid voluntary work. Make sure that in helping these free voluntary projects that you are not taking money or resources away from the organisation at the luxury of having free housing

What do I need?

Planning on volunteering abroad requires the same amount of planning as any kind of international travel you will need to have these things with you:

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