Volunteering abroad is a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages. However, there are a few things you need to think about before you go. Here are 5 tips when volunteering abroad:
Make sure you find the right placement for you
Whether you want to work with disadvantaged children, contribute to a health project or participate in a conservation programme, there are lots of opportunities available. However you need to be sure that you find the right project for your needs and abilities. Think about your experience and interests, and about what you might want to do when you return from your placement. Then you need to consider where you might want to work, and how long you are willing to stay. There are plenty of sites on the Internet that can help you with your planning.
Find out exactly what is expected
Once you have chosen the organisation you want to work with, spend some time finding out exactly what they will expect of you, and what you can expect from them. What training will they be giving you (both before and after you travel), and what support will be available once you get there? Will you be working with other volunteers, or will you be on your own? Ask if there are any recently returned volunteers in your area that you can talk to about their experiences.
Learn as much as you can about the country you are visiting
Wherever you go, you will encounter a certain amount of culture shock. You may not have anticipated the levels of poverty, or the extreme heat, or even the number of insects buzzing around at night! However, you can reduce the shock by finding out as much as possible beforehand, by reading, looking on the Internet, and talking to others who have lived and worked in the country.
Plan carefully before you travel
You will make your life considerably easier if you attend to all of the practical details before you travel. Your volunteer agency will probably advise on visas and vaccinations, but it is essential that you consider these well in advance. Think about how you access your money: you will have to notify your bank that you are travelling, and you will also need to know if you will have access to ATMs or Internet banking. You may also have to make special arrangements to use your mobile phone in another country.
Check your insurance
Although we all hope that we will not become ill, or suffer any accidents, it is essential to have adequate insurance in place, and it is likely that your volunteer agency will insist upon this. There are a number of tailor-made annual insurance policies for overseas volunteers, covering health, accidents and personal belongings. This will ensure your peace of mind while you are working abroad.
Once you have done your research, found the perfect placement and covered the practicalities, all that remains is to enjoy your overseas experience.