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Guide to Volunteering Programs
Get inspiration for a life changing trip today and read more information about applying to give back. On our website you can read information about volunteering programs, search opportunities and apply. We help thousands of people find and arrange volunteer trips every year and you can read on for information on why you might want to sign up and how you can set up a dream trip.
Why Volunteer Abroad?
There are no specific reasons why you might choose to volunteer abroad, maybe you are looking to do something different or you are planning a break and you want a rewarding experience which is totally different to anything you have ever done before. You will get to explore a new region of the world and be far more than just a tourist. This is your chance to do something different, help other people and find out about yourself and have an experience more meaningful than just sunbathing. By applying you will get to live and immerse yourself in a foreign country, meet people from all around the world and be able to have a real hands on learning experience.
Not only is working as a volunteer a wonderful experience, it’s also one that you can take home with you and show to your friends and families through the memories you have, friends you've made and pictures you have taken. There are hundreds of really amazing projects and organisations which need assistance all year, you could apply to help communities, conservation, wildlife, education and teaching initiatives or work on care projects. Whether you are looking to gain experience for a future career or just spend a holiday doing something rewarding there are projects for everyone. Some projects can be join for a short period of less than a week whilst on others you can stay for over a year meaning there are options to fit all time frames.
Most Nationalities are able to apply but you will need to be eligble for a tourist visa for the destination you are interested in.
Most organisations require you to be 18 to volunteer by yourself on a project overseas. But some companies specialize in trips for 15-17 year old's, these are usually structured and short term programs organized in conjunction with schools. If you are under this age limit you might need to volunteer with your family, there are family trips available but certain restrictions apply.
No previous experience is required for non skilled positions but if you are looking to help as a doctor for example you will need qualifications. You will need to be in good health, flexible, enthusiastic, adaptable, have a desire to make a positive impact. A good level of English is needed for most placements and sometimes depending on the destination you might need to know the basics of the local language.
Who Benefits from Voluntourism
Before a lot of people depart on volunteering placements abroad one popular question is 'who is this going to benefit?' and 'will I be able to make a difference'. By deciding to travel overseas and help a volunteer program you will be able to help others whilst helping yourself develop personally. You will benefit personally and professionally, this will be a fresh new learning experience. Occassionally in the media there are negative stories about the effectiveness and how worthwhile programs are. Don't let this put you off, developing countries benefit from international help as a lot of places lack the people and skills to help make a difference. New participants bring new ideas and skills and can also help programs develop overtime by working with local staff. By applying for educational, environmental, wildlife or communtity based placements you will be able to contribute and have a positive impact. Tourism is also a massive boost to any country, the presence of international volunteers provides money for destinations and for projects, of which a lot require a donation to keep projects operating. By traveling and volunteering you will be buying local food or staying in accommodation which will boost others indirectly.
You can participate from as little as a day, to over a year. The minimum and maximum program length really depend on the organisation or program, some have a minimum of one week but a lot require at least 2 weeks or longer. On care / orphanage projects most organisations like partipants to stay long term 4 weeks or longers because you need to learn new skills and develop bonds with people you are working with. Please note being away from home on a long term volunteer program will impact relationships, holidays, and finances, these things should be considered before joining a year long placement for example.
How to Apply
Our directory should give you some really inspirational ideas on where you can go and what you could do. There is no deadline or best time to apply and please research all countries before signing up to a program. Some organizations allow you to book a program over one year in advance. Sometimes its good to book the program early as this reserve your spot, some projects only need a limited number of volunteers so can fill up quickly. You should also be able to change your program dates if needed. Please contact us if you have any questions or need any help.
What to Think about Before Applying
Where would you like to go / do
What budget do you have available - this might determine your destination or program/organisations
Some programs can be challenging, if you are not prepared to actively help and put effort in, you might be best just going for a general holiday
Remember locations can be in the developing world meaning facilities and living standards might not be what you are used to
Buy travel insurance to cover all events and be sure to read past testimonials for tips and recommendations on how to get the most out of the experience
Read about your destination and see if you need any vaccinations or medication e.g. malari tablets
What to Expect
You have the option to apply direct with local projects and NGO's or arrange your trip through an international company who will be able to arrange you a placement. Even if you apply by yourself you won't be alone volunteering, most organizations have lots of people helping at anytime but if you are worried please enquire direct before applying. This is certainly no normal holiday, sometimes working hours can be long and exhausting so please beware of this before applying. Every day will be new and there will be lots of free time for you to relax or travel and see more of the country you are based in. Usually when participating you will develop strong bonds with your fellow volunteers and you might make friends to last a life time. You will take away lots of positive memories from volunteering in a foreign country, most people really enjoy the experience and are able to make a contribution to projects around the world. If you speak Portuguese you can view more information about our website and opportunities here: Trabalho voluntário no exterior com a One World 365.
Volunteering Abroad with Your Family
Are you researching a trip to volunteer overseas with your family? Or is this idea something which is totally new to you? We are getting more and more enquiries from families seeking to help rewarding volunteer projects and if you are an active family looking for new ways to experience the world then our website will appeal to you. We have put together a useful guide where you can read how to volunteer abroad with your family including popular destinations, featured projects, costs, what to expect and also recommended organisations. Spending time with your family and doing something more than your average beach break might provide you with the most rewarding experience of your life! This will be something different to what you have ever done before, you will create memories and get photos to last a lifetime. Family volunteer projects allow you to learn and interact with your children in a fun environment far away from the tv/computer which you might be so used to watching back home. On some projects you will get to experience the great outdoors experiencing a new culture and doing something unique - this is also a good way for you to escape the stress and pressure of normal working life. You will gain a new perspective like no other.
There are projects which accept families located all around the world, all projects are carefully selected and all local operations have years of experience working with families to provide safe trips. Placements are totally flexible and you can join throughout the year, generally there is no best time to apply but you might want to check the season/weather of your intended destination. Be sure to get your application in early for summer breaks as this can be the most popular time of the year with the school holidays. Applying is easy - you can do this today via One World 365. Some projects can centre around conservation, sometimes working with exotic animals or helping community development - this is your chance to give back and do something inspiring. You will get to choose from placements like helping animals, learning/helping conservation efforts, teaching English, coaching sports, improving living conditions and facilities, helping healthcare or mixing a bit of everything. If either parent has any skills this will be put to good use. Most projects also combine experiences where you will get to go sightseeing seeing new locations, most of the time you will work around 3-6 hours per day Monday to Friday with weekends free to explore. Excursions and activities can be booked in country. Sometimes you will be working alongside other families, this is a great cultural exchange where you will meet new people from all over the world under the guidance of experienced locally employed staff.
Most applications are usually dealt with case-by-cases basis and all criteria will be discussed, generally children are accepted when they are aged 4 and over, although this really depends on the organisation and project. Don't worry if you have never done anything like this before or have no previous experience, training is provided and usually you will help non-skilled placements. You will need to be in good health and adaptable to new surroundings and when participating noone will be pushed to do anything they don't want to or feel comfortable doing. Most family volunteer experiences are offering as part of a structured package, the price you pay can vary depending on your preferred destination or project type. What is usually included - placements, pre-departure information, on-site orientation & project induction, airport pick up and drop off, accommodation, 3 meals per day and 24 hour in-country support. Also sometimes discounts are available if you book early/last minute.
Why You Might Need to Pay to Volunteer Abroad
Pay to volunteer? How does that made sense? Shouldn't this be free if you are donating your time? Think again. The concept of paying money to give your time and work as a volunteer can seem confusing, but this is now generally the norm when it comes to voluntourism. Don't let paying a fee put you off applying too volunteer, this experience is a great opportunity to challenge yourself to do some good in the world whilst also supporting local organisations that have little resources and no funding.
If you apply through an international agency you will be asked to pay a fee to participate which acts as a framework to providing you with a structured experience. If you are looking for a safe placement and you are worried about going solo we highly recommend applying with a large international sending agency. They provide a safety barrier incase anything does go wrong as you will be able to assist you every step of the way. A lot of companies have a financial framework in place or are member of ATOL and the Trave Trade Association giving you peace of mind knowing the money you pay is safe and secure. On most sending agencies websites they will have a transparent breakdown of where the money you pay actaully ends up.
Generally the fee you pay with a sending agency covers the following aspects:
Most NGO's and non-profit organisations are run on shoe-string budgets without any funding, the fee keeps them running throughout the year
Group flights / placements can be arranged which is great if you are worried about traveling / applying solo
You will be provided with placements, detailed pre-departure briefings, orientation and information
Accommodation and meals are included - these cost money and if not covered by volunteers will be at the expense of local projects without much revenue
There will be associated admin and support costs including in-country staff
Safety and security, if you pay a fee with an international agency you will know the projects exists without the fear of turning up and nothing being there
Incase anything goes wrong - most sending agencies offer 24 hour in country support
There are lots of really amazing organisations who operate worldwide without funding and without the efforts and money from international participants they could not operate and do the work they do
Also remember paying to volunteer is far more rewarding than just giving a donation to a charity
How to Volunteer Abroad for Free / Low Cost
If you are currently researching a volunteer vacation and looking not to spend a fortune doing so in the process you might have realised if can be a struggle to find free and low cost programs. What you might not know is One World 365 is one of the largest resources in the world for volunteering abroad, we help thousands of people every year give back and unlike many other websites as we feature free, low cost and reasonably priced opportunities and organisations in destinations all around the world.
We get lots of e-mails and enquiries asking for help in choosing a organisation from people wanting to help but are on tight budgets or do not want to break the bank participating which is why we have written this guide. You might have been searching out opportunities already and struggling to find programs which don't cost you thousands of dollars. When initially searching it can be diffcult to find a completely free volunteer abroad program unless you get a paid position with a large international agency but there are lots of ways to keep costs down or even participate at no cost at all.
These are our top tips on how to find free volunteer programs around the world:
Know the Difference between the Types of Organisations - To volunteer abroad for free you will need to research organisations thoroughly, there are lots of NGO's, grass-roots organisations and charities operating around the world which usually charge either nothing, a nominal fee or ask for a donation.
Apply Direct Through our Website - Contact local organisations and see if you can help - there are hundreds of projects which allow you to participate for no fee but when applying you will need iniative, flexibility and good planning skilled. With these types of organisations you will need to be independent, this means planning your flights, travel and transport whilst sometimes you might need to also buy food/drink and pay for external accommodation.
Learn a Skill - Sometimes if you have a certain skill or work in a skilled job you can find free or paid placements in areas like medicine, healthcare, architecture, business, engineering or teaching where you can help/train local non-skilled staff.
Narrow Down Your Search - There are so many free opportunities worldwide to help and if you just want a flexible placement these are best to be searched out when you have a country in mind.
Be Independent - Some organisations charge a fee to live onsite but depending on the location you could book yourself accommodation or do a homestay in a nearby town or city traveling independently to the project site. Sometimes this is not possible due to the remote location of some projects.
Apply for a Grant / Bursary - If you live in the United Kingdom you can visit your local library (or buy online) a book called 'the Directory of Grant Making Trusts'. This book lists organisations which offer financial assistance to people seeking to do good in the world e.g. volunteering or helping communities and wildlife. You will need to put together a good structured plan on where the money you are requesting is going and also show that the money being donated is being spent well.