Volunteering opportunities overseas include working holidays, developmental work experience or travel and work combinations. They are offered by both profit making and non-profit making organisations.
Check the following details carefully before applying to volunteer abroad:
1. What legal status does the organisation have? Is it a charity, NGO or not-for-profit organisation, or is it a profit-making company? All of these can be legitimate, but the status should be made clear on the information provided to you.
2. Is it registered in the UK or in another country? It is usually better to go through an organisation that is either registered in the UK or in a country that has a similar legal system, in case of any problems.
3. Who owns and manages the organisation? Who are the patrons? You should look for recognised names, and use the internet to research background and references.
4. Does the organisation charge you to volunteer? There is often an administration fee, which can vary from £100 to £2,000 or more. Check out what it includes: visas, flights, incountry travel, medical insurance, vaccinations, administration, accommodation, food? Is it reasonable for what you are getting?
5. Which country are you going to? Is it safe? Check out the official UK Government advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice to be sure. Make sure you follow all the advice, especially on legal, insurance and medical requirements. Your insurance won't cover you if you ignore this advice!
If in doubt ask for more details, and if the organisation won’t answer your questions stay well away!
Get the most out of it - Think about your purpose and what you want to get out of the experience: Is it just to have some fun and travel experience or to learn new skills and build up relevant work experience?
If you decide to volunteer overseas you need to use your judgement combined with the advice above, and also these other important considerations
- Will you have enough money to live on whilst you’re away, or to get home if anything goes wrong?
- Do you know what the communication facilities are where you will be living, and have you set up contact arrangements for family and friends before leaving?
- Do you know how to keep safe in the town/area and country you are visiting? Do a personal risk assessment covering personal safety, common types of crime, prevalence of road accidents, common illnesses, dangerous animals or plants, food hygiene etc.
- Have you thought about ethical issues with your travel? What problems might come about due to cultural, economic, political, social or gender-based differences?
- Have you also looked at the environmental impact you may be causing?
If you would like more advice about assessing a particular opportunity please call 01603 593452, email CareerCentral, or pop in and ask for a volunteering appointment.
Further Impartial Advice
You can also find impartial advice and tips on choosing and undertaking volunteering opportunities on the website Responsible Volunteering. This site also includes a list of questions which you can consider when approaching organisations.