25 Days to Green Travel: Day Nineteen - Volunteering

Volunteering Abroad – 10 Things to Know

Volunteering abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You get to spend a few weeks or months saving the rain forest or building houses for people who can’t afford them. Every program is not a good fit for everyone. But there are so many different places and types of work to choose from, you’ll definitely be able to find one that works for you.
Today and tomorrow we’ll cover everything you need to consider when deciding on a program, plus 5 reasons you should volunteer abroad and resources to get you started.
10 Things to Think About Before You Sign Up
Do your research. Not all volunteer abroad opportunities are created equal. Some cost money, others are free. Some require commitments of 3 or more months, others only ask that you stay a week.
Location. This is one of the most important things to consider when you’re picking a destination. Is the program in a place you want to visit? Would you be living close to a major city? Would you want to? If you’re looking to go barhopping on the weekends and you commit to 6 months in rural Romania, you probably won’t be happy.
Safety. Learn about the safety of the region you’ll visit and, if possible, talk to other people who have lived or traveled there. Safety can be crime-related or illness-related. Some people would prefer to avoid politically volatile regions, but are okay with risking malaria. Decide what you value before you book a trip.
Cost. Some volunteer programs charge thousands of dollars; others are completely free and provide you with housing and food. Take your budget into account before you commit to a program.
Climate. If you’re uncomfortable when the thermostat rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you should probably steer clear of Calcutta in May. Look at average temperatures for the dates you’ll travel and make sure you pack weather-appropriate clothes. Most programs offer packing advice on their websites.

Length of Stay. Some programs are come-and-go and allow you to show up and stay for a while. Others have strict requirements for booking in advance and staying a minimum amount of time. Your dream program may require a 6-month commitment. If you’re only able to get away for 3 months, contact them and see if that’s a possibility. If not, ask them for recommendations of similar programs and keep on looking.
Type of Work. You could be working on an organic farm, building houses, doing environmental research, teaching English, or helping out in a medical clinic. There’s definitely something for everyone, so choose an activity that you’ll enjoy.

What’s Provided. Some programs give you food and lodging at no additional cost. Others provide lodging, but you’re expected to pay extra for it. Still others point you in the right direction by giving you recommendations, but you have to book and pay for it. Figure out what your program provides and what you can afford.
Schedule. If getting out and exploring the region is important to you, figure out how much free time you’ll have. Some programs give you days off, while others expect you to be available the whole time you’re there. Do your research and decide what will work best for you.
Reputation. Dig around online, scour forums, and ask for references if you have doubts. If the company or organization you’re considering seems sketchy, it might be. Or they might just have a small budget and no website. Do your research and try to speak to a real person about any concerns. You can look up U.S.-based organizations (or orgs with a U.S. affiliate) on Charity Navigator, which evaluates non-profits and gives them 1-4 stars, and GuideStar, which provides information on thousands of non-profits.
Tomorrow we’ll cover why you should volunteer abroad and give you the resources you need to get started.
This is the nineteenth post in Go Green Travel Green’s 25 Days to Green Travel series. You can see the complete list of articles in the 25 Days to Green Travel Index.

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henryk said…
Volunteering abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime, and our flexible concise programs let you architecture your ideal acquaintance overseas. Voluntary work can change your life, its a great way to travel as well as do some of the most crucial charity work you will ever do.

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