Top 5 Tips for Choosing a Volunteer Abroad Program

Katie Boyer is the Volunteer Abroad Director for Go Overseas. She recently joined Justin Jones on The Radical Travel Podcast to discuss How (and Why) to Volunteer Abroad. Be sure to listen to the podcast for more great volunteer abroad info! 

A volunteer with ProWorld in Oaxaca plays with an orphan at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca. Photo via Katie Boyer.

A volunteer with ProWorld in Oaxaca plays with an orphan at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca. Photo via Katie Boyer.

Volunteering abroad is something everyone should get to experience at least once in their life. It’s the perfect way to become immersed in a new culture while giving back at the same time.

With the popularity of voluntourism on the rise, there are a plethora of programs to choose from. So how do you know which one is right for you? Follow these 5 tips and you’ll be well on your way to picking the right volunteer abroad program to suit your needs and skills.

Set Goals and Ask Yourself Questions

Before you can choose a program, you need to  know what you’re looking for. This may sound basic but it’s SO important. What are you looking to get out of this trip? Are there specific destinations you’re interested in or a language you’ve always wanted to learn? Now is your chance! Do you want to work outdoors? Live with a family? Do you have a budget?

Identify the Skills You Have to Offer

Again, no matter how simple this sounds, don’t pass this over. Volunteer projects go best when you are able to contribute in a meaningful way. Have building skills? Computer skills? Good at working with children? Are you a teacher? Your skills area  big factor in choosing the right volunteer program.

Research, Research, Research

Now we’re really getting to the tough stuff. Pick a few programs that sound like a fit and dig deeper. What options do they offer?

Talk to Past Volunteers and Read Reviews

Katie plays with a child at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca. Photo via Katie Boyer.

Katie plays with a child at Casa Hogar Hijos de la Luna de Oaxaca. Photo via Katie Boyer.

Before you choose a program, get a feel for what it’s really like from an objective point of view. Reading reviews is the best way to do this. Go Overseas offers thousands of reviews and interviews from past volunteers that describe their experiences in detail. They also discuss things they wish they had done differently as well as give critical feedback. You won’t find any better insight than from people like you who’ve already been through it.

Contact the Program Provider and Ask the Tough Questions

This last step will give you some awesome insight to the organization. You can tell a lot from a few emails or a short phone call. If they are transparent and willing to talk about things like where the money goes, you will know they are running a quality operation. If anything makes you uncomfortable, go with your gut.

Good luck on your search for the perfect volunteer program! Be sure to consult Go Overseas for further questions and resources.

Katie Boyer, Volunteer Abroad Director for Go Overseas, is a volunteering expert! She has volunteered in Peru and Mexico and hopes to continue her travels around the world again soon. 

Listen to our interview with Katie on The Radical Travel Podcast - How (and Why) to Volunteer Abroad.

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