Here are our basics to take into consideration when deciding to volunteer internationally.

  • Accommodation

There are numerous accommodations types offered. Accommodations may be dormitory style, with a host family, at a campsite or in some cases private living quarters. If the programme does not provide housing you will need to find out if the programme you select is able to help you locate housing.

  • Affiliations

When looking into programmes you may want to consider the political, religious, etc. affiliations the programme has. For example, if you are looking into a programme that is affiliated with a particular religious group you may want to inquire about how the aim/goals of the programmes may or may not be affected by this affiliation.

  • Application Process

Note how long a programme requires for an application to be processed. Often you will need a recommendation letter, which you may want to seek out before you begin looking for programmes.

  • Charity Vs Compassion

The difference between charity and compassion centres around your role as a volunteer. You should not enter the programme thinking that you can change the world or that your way is the right way. Instead you should focus on the learning experience that can come out of such an opportunity. Be open to being taught new ideas and seek to make connections with the people you will work with.

  • Co-workers/Volunteers

Worth consideration is the programme size. Will you be working alongside other volunteers or will you be placed with a programme on your own? Do volunteers begin in waves or are they all placed at the same time? Also does the programme you are considering have a group leader/supervisor on the project with you?

  • Embassy

Ensure there is an Irish Embassy in the country you will be volunteering and know how to reach the Embassy by phone. You can prepare this information before hand by visiting the Irish Embassy website. This is particular important as passports can go missing! The Department of Foreign Affairs website is very helpful

  • Expectations

Are the projects defined and does the programme clearly outline your duties for the duration of your volunteering? Do you know what the programme expects from you? Have you made your expectations of the programme known?

  • Fees

Some programmes require a fee for participants. How much of this fee goes towards your insurance, travel, etc. Ask for a breakdown. Does funding go directly to the community you will be volunteering with on the ground?

  • Food

Are meals part of your programme fee? If so how many meals are day are provided? Is the water in the region potable? Also if you have certain dietary restrictions inform your programme before you arrive.

  • Medical and Travel Insurance

Does the programme provide an insurance plan? If your programme does not include insurance you will need to check your current insurance plan to see if you will be covered while abroad, if not you may want to look into purchasing a temporary international health coverage plan.

  • Orientation

Does your programme provide an orientation process? Is there a debriefing process after your trip? Have you spent time researching the region you will be visiting; cultural customs, dress, food, weather, religion, politics, etc. Does your programme have some process of integrating you into the community you are entering?

  • Packing

This will depend on the region you are travelling to. Make sure to look up the seasonal weather patterns for the time frame you will be travelling. To get a better idea of items needed contact your sending agency.

  • Safety

Research the area you are travelling and remember to ensure your personal safety at all times.

  • Support

Is there a support system in the country? Will there be a director/liaison person nearby? In the case of political unrest, does your programme have an evacuation plan? What do you need to do in the case of a serious medical emergency? How often will your programme be in contact with you?

  • Visas

Unless you are staying for more than a couple of months you will more than likely only need a passport. However to know for sure you will need to contact the Sending Organisation. Also keep in mind that getting a visa is a process that can take between a few weeks and a few months.

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