A little guidance goes a long way when determining how to choose a volunteer organization, especially when you're committing to volunteer abroad. You want to ensure that your international volunteer experience allows you to make a valuable contribution to a community, and engage in meaningful exchanges with local people in a safe and supportive environment. As a volunteer traveler, you need to feel confident that your volunteer organization has the best interests of its volunteers and the local communities it serves at heart, and that volunteering with this organization won't cost you the earth.
While Google may appear to have all the answers, a quick search for "volunteer organizations" will bring you millions of results, giving you an overwhelming number of options to consider. Here are the steps you can take to find a volunteer organization that will to provide you with the best possible experience abroad.
FIND OUT WHERE YOUR FEES ARE GOING
Ensuring that you have clarity around how your volunteer fees are going to be allocated is one of most important steps to take in identifying whether a volunteer organization is worth further consideration. So check the fees are affordable, and that the organization can explain how these fees are allocated. This is important if you're fundraising to support the cost of your volunteer trip, so you can provide your supporters with a breakdown of what they will be supporting. When choosing to volunteer with VVCD, you know that you're paying a registration fee of $50 which covers the costs associated with arranging your program (see the fee breakdown here), as well as a program fee (which varies depending on the duration and destination of your program). As an VVCD volunteer, you know that 20% of this program fee goes to placement where you choose to volunteer, to provide the in-country services associated with your program, including your airport pick-up, orientation and 24/7 in-country support.
ENSURE THE PROGRAMS ARE COMMUNITY-DRIVEN
Community involvement is an important aspect of effective international volunteer programs. It is important to ensure that projects are led by local people as locals are in the best position to identify where support is needed within their own communities. Ensuring that the volunteer organization is placing volunteers in projects that have been developed by people who understand the social or environmental needs of a community is key. VVCD works with independent local organizations in every program destination to host international volunteers, and place them in projects in genuine need of volunteer support. These include a range of social and environmental-focused projects, including Teaching, Community Development, Childcare, NGO Support. VVCD volunteers can feel confident they are contributing to important projects, working alongside local people on projects have been developed by community members who know the area and its people.
GO FOR EXPERIENCE
When researching volunteer organizations over the internet, keep in mind that anyone can build a website overnight, but it takes ages to build a reputation as a respected organization, and gain the trust of volunteers as well the communities in which these volunteers work. Do you research to ensure that the organization behind the website has extensive experience in hosting international volunteers, providing mutually-beneficial exchanges for volunteers and local communities. We are proud to say that VVCD has long-lasting experience in hosting international volunteers in important social and environmental development projects.
READ UP ON THE REVIEWS
As well as reading the reviews posted on an organization's website, cross check the reviews on external websites, such as volunteer abroad review sites and social media. Volunteer communities like the VVCD Facebook group are ideal for finding real time feedback from like-minded volunteers who have first-hand experience with the volunteer organization you're considering. If you have any questions that you want answered from a volunteer's perspective, these groups have been created to help you.
CONSIDER THE VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES
Considering whether the volunteer organization has suitable project opportunities to match your unique skill set can also support you in choosing the right organization. If you're not sure which type of project to choose, or where you should travel to, there are handy resources available to help to point you in the right direction. If you have university course requirements to meet as part of your volunteer program, contact the volunteer organization to find out how the projects available can support you in meeting these requirements. Also, make sure that the time you have available to participate in a volunteer project matches up with the program durations that the volunteer organization can accommodate. VVCD volunteers can choose to participate in projects ranging from 1 week to 6 months, and some projects have minimum project durations to keep in mind.
LOOK AT WHAT SUPPORT WILL BE PROVIDED
You want to know that you're going to be well supported before and after departing to volunteer abroad, and feel confident that the organization can deliver on providing adequate pre-departure and in-country support services. Will you be connected with a member of that organization to answer your questions before departing? Will be provided with additional support services upon registering? Will you have access to support once you arrive to your program? All registered VVCD volunteers are connected with an experienced Volunteer Advisor to guide them through the pre-departure process and ensure they have all the information and support they need to prepare properly.
To sum up how to choose the best volunteer organization for you, it's important to keep the following points in mind:
♦Remember like all forms of travel, volunteering abroad does costs money, but costs can vary greatly between organizations. Make sure the fees are affordable and you know where they're going.
♦Ensure that the projects have been developed with and among the community, and are focused on building skills and capabilities within that community.
♦Research reviews for the volunteer organization, using social media to support your research.
♦Think about how you can apply your existing skills and experience to make the most impact, and choose an organization that provides the type of projects that will allow you to do so.
♦Ensure you are satisfied with the level of support you will receive before, during and after your program. If in doubt about what support is offered, contact the volunteer organization for clarification.
If you have any questions about volunteering abroad with VVCD, you can contact the team here.