10 Reasons to Volunteer in the Philippines
The Philippines is an often overlooked volunteer destination in favour of countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Lexie Cundiff recently joined a volunteer program in the Philippinies with International Volunteer Headquarters and here she shares her top reasons why you should consider a similar experience.
1. It’s affordable
If you’re like me and want to travel, but don’t want to spend a ton of money, International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) is the program for you. They have programs in over 40 destinations worldwide and each program includes transportation from the airport, your stay, and three meals a day. So you don’t have to worry about factoring in expenses for food or hostels, unless you plan weekend trips (which you most likely will), but even then meals are cheap and hostels go for as little as $7 USD per night!
2. The beach is right at your doorstep
There’s nothing like waking up every morning and stepping out of your room right onto the beach (hearing the waves crashing at night from the comfort of your room is definitely a bonus). Volunteering was only for four hours a day, two hours in the morning and two hours after lunch, so the rest of the day was spent lying in a hammock and reading a book, playing sand volleyball, or just hanging out under the pavilion on the beach with other volunteers. Be sure to pack your swimsuits and don’t forget the sunscreen!
3. You’ll meet likeminded people from all over the world
Traveling to the Philippines was the first time I had been away from home completely on my own. I was extremely nervous at first and wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I arrived at the camp I was greeted by 30 other volunteers and soon I felt right at home. I met people from all over the world and from countries I had never even heard of. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and those who had been there for a while were quick to show us newbies around and give us tips on what to expect. I developed strong friendships while I was there and if you keep an open mind, you will too.
4. Traveling on the weekends is easy
Flights in the Philippines are so cheap it makes it impossible to pass up a weekend trip to swim with whale sharks in Cebu or see the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. The local staff is super helpful when it comes to planning these trips so I’d recommend waiting until you get there to book anything. You’ll also want to see what other volunteers are planning and travel with them if you can.
5. The program is flexible
I started out doing their kindergarten program, but wanted to switch and try something new. After a week of doing kindergarten the local staff allowed me to choose a new program. I ended up in construction and stayed there the rest of the time, but I could’ve done a different program every week if I wanted to. You don’t have to do what you signed up for your entire stay which is really nice and allows you to make the most out of your time abroad.
6. There’s little phone service
I know to some people this can be scary, but after a day or two you’ll forget about your phone completely. It’s so enjoyable to be around people who aren’t distracted by social media and actually pay attention to what you’re saying. It forced us to connect and I really think it’s the reason we developed strong friendships so quickly. We spent so many late nights together playing games and listening to music and not one single person was preoccupied by their phone. It was amazing. BUT if you are really worried about contacting home, there are spots on the beach where you can find connection and you’ll most likely have Wi-Fi on weekend travels.
7. The locals are amazing
I’ve never met such friendly people in all of my travels. Filipinos love tourists and are always willing to chat with you. They’ll give you so many tips and suggestions from where to eat dinner to where the local hangout spots are. We found a private beach in Puerto Princesa just from talking to a local at our hostel.
8. The experiences are authentic
The volunteer accommodation is located in the heart of Tigman Village, the community you’ll be volunteering in. The locals there are extremely appreciative of volunteers and are so eager to share their culture with you. Being in a new country on your own can be challenging, but the local staff and community members, quickly make the village feel like your home away from home.
9. There’s endless amounts of natural beauty
The Philippines has no shortage of blue waters and incredible places to hike. From the moment you step off the plane you’ll be greeted with breathtaking views that just keep getting better. During your orientation, the local staff will bring you to Estrella Falls, and if you think that is gorgeous, prepare yourself because you’re in for a treat.
10. Most importantly... it will change your life
If you have never volunteered abroad before or are unsure if this program is right for you, I’m here to tell you to go for it! I too, was nervous and skeptical of what this experience with IVHQ was going to be like, but I do not regret my decision one bit. I returned home with a new sense of who I was and who I wanted to be. Living in another culture and learning about their values and beliefs opened up my mind and taught me so much about myself. If I was ever given the opportunity to return to Palawan, I would do it in a heartbeat.
By Lexie Cundiff