The adventure of a lifetime might be closer than you think. With volunteer opportunities available across the globe you can volunteer on orchards in New Zealand, guest houses in Iceland and farms in Patagonia.
I've done several short-term volunteer projects, such as helping out at schools and non-profits in developing countries, and they are very rewarding. Lately, though, I've been taking to a number of people who are looking at longer-term projects - that sounds pretty intriguing.
If you're considering volunteering abroad, here are some tips on how you can make sure you are prepared for whatever may come your way while helping others in a distant land.
Tip 1: Be Aware of All the Costs of Your Program
There are many “free” volunteer opportunities, but what this typically means is that it doesn't cost you an enrollment fee in order to volunteer. While some “free” opportunities will provide room, and some go as far as board, don't be surprised if you are required to pay for your own accommodations, food, and even transportation.
Work exchanges are similar to volunteer work, but you typically work for a company and are rewarded room and board for your work. This is the model of the popular WWOOF program which operates all over the globe. Remember, the amount you work in exchange for room and board depends on the host you set yourself up with.
Tip 2: Use Trusted Resources to Find Opportunities
Sites like wwoof.net, projectsabroad.com, and volunteerforever.com are all wonderful resources for you to find your international volunteer opportunity. Wwoof.net lets you brows the globe for all the wwoofing opportunities in the world. Projectsabroad.com have free webinars which you can watch on a variety of subjects which concern the process of volunteering abroad, as well as live sessions. Volunteerforever.com has volunteer grants and scholarships you can apply for, as well as tips on crowd funding campaign. Help Exchange has many work exchange opportunities in places where WWOOF hasn't taken hold.
Tip 3: Invest in the Right Tech to Stay Connected to Loved Ones
When you volunteer abroad you might find yourself in a city, small town, or extremely remote area. Even if you get a cellphone in the country you visit, you might not have service in the town or village you find yourself in. You might consider a satellite phone. Satellite phones work anywhere in the world so you can always call for help, or get in touch with loved ones back home.
A laptop or tablet can make communications easier with loved ones as well. Even if you're in a remote area without internet, a computer or tablet can be helpful in your work with spread sheets, design tools, educational uses, and even for personal use when you're not working.
Tip 4: Make an Effort to Be a Good Ambassador
Remember, as a volunteer, you're still a representative of an organization or company. That's why you should take nice clothes. If you want the respect of the people you work for, work with, and represent, nice clothes can make you look official and in control of your situation.
If you plan to volunteer in a country you don't speak the language in, a phrasebook might come in handy. A smartphone can serve as such, but at times you may be in situations you rather not flash such an expensive item around. A phrasebook can help you get around and isn't a great loss if it gets damaged.