The following is a sponsored post.
Interested in volunteering abroad? Bombarded with lots of different organisations claiming they offer the best deals? It is not always best to rely on a cool name and a brand new website may not necessarily guarantee the credibility of an organisation.
Whether you are going away for 4 weeks, 4 months or even a whole year – here are 5 important questions to ask before choosing a volunteer organisation, and taking the trip of a lifetime.
1. How long has the organisation been running for?
Taking a gap year or volunteering abroad has become increasingly popular. All the cool kids are doing it and there are a growing number of people taking trips in between jobs or as a total career break. Due to this high demand, more and more organisations are becoming established in promoting volunteer abroad trips and eco-travel.
This is reflected in the seemingly endless organisations vying for your attention. However one of the key aspects of knowing if an organisation is well run is finding out how long have they been running for. When parting with your hard earned cash you want to be confident that the organisation is reliable and in it for the long haul; they’re not going to go bust and leave you out of pocket.
2. How long has the project been running for?
If the project has been running for a while the chances of them having a good working relationship with the locals is high. Additionally, if a project is well established it will have a much better chance of everything running smoothly, from the airport pickup to the accommodation you stay in, it should all be in place.
A good way of finding out if a project has been running for a while is by looking for feedback from past volunteers. As well as feedback on independent travel websites it’s also worth looking at organisations’ own Facebook page, where you can have a look at pictures uploaded by previous volunteers, which should give you good idea of what it would be like out on the project you are interested in.
Other things to think about are nice freebies such as will there be a free airport pickup? Are meals and accommodation included in the price? Are there any other freebies thrown in such as PADI training on marine conservation projects or a TEFL qualification in the teaching projects?
3. Has the organisation been independently assessed and do they have a responsible tourism policy?
You want to be travelling with an accredited and professional organisation whilst you are in a country or countries you are not familiar with. Therefore, making sure the organisation you choose has an independent accreditation is crucial.
In the UK the British Standard 8848 is given to organisations by the Young Explorers Trust and pulls together expertise and good practice into a national standard for the safe management of overseas ventures.
Additionally, you also want to know that your organisation is helping the local communities they work within. There are many different types of volunteering organisations and you want to ask questions such as are they a non government organisation (NGO)? Are they a non-profit organisation? Make sure you do your homework.
Travel is about giving something back, leaving a destination and host community in a better condition than when you found it, even if it simply means giving a smile to everyone you encounter. By volunteering abroad you should be able to make a real contribution to the lives of the communities you have visited via sustainable community development projects, teaching children, health care or the conservation of wildlife both terrestrial and marine.
4. How do you make sure that the program is suitable for you?
Choosing the appropriate project for you is another necessity. Will you be gaining qualifications to strengthen your CV? Will it give you relevant experience for a future job? At Frontier you can choose a project that will give you a qualification when finish your time abroad.
5. How will I contact my friends and family if I have an emergency during my program?
Not being in contact with your family for an extended period of time, may seem like bliss to most of us. No nagging parents telling you what to do or managers giving you yet another deadline. However, if an emergency was to arise you want to make sure the volunteering organisation has a 24 hour support line.
For example, with Frontier no matter what the time difference is an allocated member of staff will be on standby to answer the emergency phone and ring you back if needed.
The next thing to decide is which country to visit?
I’ll leave this one up to you…Good luck and happy travelling!