The team at IVHQ literally answers thousands of questions every week around how to volunteer abroad - whether it be via email or telephone, we encourage IVHQ volunteers to throw all their questions our way, to ensure they're well prepared for the journey ahead!
We decided to whip around the head office of International Volunteer HQ and discover what questions are asked the most often by IVHQers when preparing to volunteer abroad!
How long should I volunteer abroad for?
Volunteers participate on our volunteer abroad programs for any duration between 1 week and 24 weeks. Although many people can only volunteer abroad for shorter durations, due to work or study commitments back home, volunteers who are able or willing to commit to a longer duration find they can really connect to they community in which they are working. If you are able to volunteer for a longer duration, go for it! If you can only volunteer for 1 or 2 weeks, make the most of every day.
- Lydia van Den Assum (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Will someone be there to pick me up at the airport? How will they know when I arrive?
Yes! IVHQ local staff will pick you up from the airport and drive you to your volunteer accommodation. Once you've registered on an IVHQ volunteer abroad program, you'll also receive the contact details of the local staff and your IVHQ Program Coordinator, so you can pass on your flight details and we can coordinate your airport pickup.
- Kathryn Pilon (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
How can I let my parents know that I've arrived safely and to stop freaking out?
Easy, you can either take your mobile phone and set it to global roaming (which can be quite pricey) or take your 'unlocked' mobile phone from home and buy a local SIM card and data pack - that way you can email your parents "good night" from the comfort of your bed. Alternatively, you could consider purchasing a cheap mobile phone and local SIM card in country when you volunteer abroad, and text them to say they can call you when they get anxious!
- Louise Frame (IVHQ Africa Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Can I bring donations to my volunteer abroad program?
Although not a requirement, it would be wonderful if you'd like to make a donation when you volunteer abroad! We recommend volunteers take any monetary donations to their volunteer program loaded on a credit or debit card. Once you are in country, ensure you work with the local staff in identifying what is needed at your placement before making any purchases or donating any money. If you wish to take items from home, then that's great too! Books, clothes, shoes, school supplies, toys, games, and stationary are all great ideas, but you are certainly not restricted to these.
- Brittany Ryan (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
How do I get to my volunteer placement each day?
Volunteers are typically responsible for getting to and from their placements each day and usually make the trip in small groups, either on foot (or bike) or via public transportation - buses, taxis, tuk tuks, etc. The local staff will make the trip with you on your first day to ensure you are comfortable with the process. We recommend budgeting between US$3 to US$5 per day for bus transport (perhaps more if you would rather take a taxi).
- Chelsea Green (IVHQ Training Manager/Latin America Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Can I exercise while on my volunteer program?
Volunteer work abroad can be exhausting, but if you find that you have a bit of extra energy to burn, or if you have a regular exercise routine which you don't want to break, then you may be pleased to know that exercising is still an option for you on most IVHQ volunteer abroad programs! Many of the IVHQ program locations have fitness centers or gyms in the area which volunteers can attend on a casual basis. Some locations even offer activities like Salsa dancing classes, which are not only a ton of fun but also a great workout! If you're a runner then you can keep up the miles too, it is just important to ensure you let someone know your plan for your run and how long you plan to be out for.
- Jamie-lee Reynolds (IVHQ Programs Manager/Office Manager)
What type of clothing is suitable for my volunteer program?
Conservative clothing is required on all IVHQ volunteer abroad programs! Please ensure to cover shoulders, knees and chest while at your placement. Loose cotton clothing (pants, skirts, long shorts, t-shirts) is best for most program locations, however if you are heading to one of our programs with a colder climate, you may wish to stick with your favorite pair of jeans. To put it simply, conservative clothing means no short shorts, mini skirts, see-through or strappy tops - if you are asking yourself "are these shorts too short?" The answer is most likely "yes.
- Margarete Lua (IVHQ Asia Volunteer Program Coordinator)
What will the weather be like when I volunteer abroad?
It's difficult for us to answer weather questions as it's often subjective: whether someone will be comfortable or not. Our volunteers come from all over the world and everyone has a unique perspective on the climate in which they are comfortable - answers would likely be very different between a volunteer from Mexico and a volunteer from Scotland! We recommend doing independent research to determine how the climate will affect you at the time you volunteer abroad - taking note that the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the opposite of that in the Northern Hemisphere. A great website to check out comprehensive weather data is Weather Spark - it has all the weather information you would ever want and then some. You can look at averages over the time frame you wish to volunteer and then make decisions on whether that location/time frame is right for you, the implications the weather has for your volunteer travel plans, as well as how to pack and prepare.
- William Rowland (IVHQ Africa Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Am I too old to volunteer abroad?
You're never too old to give back to developing communities around the world! IVHQ's volunteer abroad programs do not have an age limit and we're seeing a growing number of older volunteers join us abroad. Sure, around 85% of volunteers are aged between 18 and 29, but the remaining 15% are aged between 30 and 80, and we're constantly hearing reports from older volunteers that when volunteering abroad, age simply doesn't matter! Visit the IVHQ website for more details on becoming a mature volunteer abroad.
- Jordan McFadyen (IVHQ Community Manager)
Do I really need to get a criminal background check to volunteer abroad?
Yes, you do! It's really important that all IVHQ volunteers are properly vetted, especially when they'll be working with children or vulnerable adults. Don't take it personally, this is a policy we apply to every new volunteer and it's just another way that we ensure that our programs are responsibly run, and that we have the right people working with our community partners. Volunteers are responsible for obtaining their own background check and providing it to our local teams when they arrive in country. We're a friendly bunch but we also enforce this policy strictly, so get onto it early and keep our local staff smiling by showing them that you've arrived ready to work.
- Ben Brown (IVHQ Risk and Responsibility Advisor)
How do I get a visa? Can you provide a visa for me?
Before you volunteer abroad you're responsible for obtaining your own tourist visas, unfortunately IVHQ are unable to provide this legal documentation. Your visa requirements are dependent on the country you are traveling to, the length you will be staying in country, and your country of origin. Therefore this information can vary greatly from volunteer to volunteer. After registering on an IVHQ volunteer abroad program, you will gain access to the IVHQ Information Booklet and be connected with a dedicated IVHQ Program Coordinator to provide you with guidance around obtaining a visa specific to your program.
- Hannah Hill-Parker (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Can I volunteer abroad with IVHQ in more than one country?
Good question and the answer is of course you can, you little world traveler you! IVHQ would be more than happy to have you volunteer in multiple countries, and you will just need to submit an online application for each program after you have created your My IVHQ profile. If you're planning on exploring the world or a continent and want to volunteer along the way, this is a great option for you. It is important to note that volunteers must pay a registration fee and program fee for each program, and are responsible for getting themselves to their next program location and sorting out their visas, travel insurance and vaccinations.
- Ashlee Bishop (IVHQ Asia Volunteer Program Coordinator)
Can I start my volunteer program on a different start date to what's advertised online?
We can understand that our fixed program start dates do not work around some of dates you have available, however our start dates coincide with when our local staff hold the volunteer program orientation. Orientation is important as this is when the local staff will explain the rules and health and safety of the program, so volunteers are well prepared for their volunteer abroad experience.
- Reeve Barnett (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Can I volunteer abroad with my friend?
Of course! What better way to share in the experience as a volunteer abroad, than by doing it with a friend (that way there will be more than one smiling face in your selfies!) Just bear in mind that you must both be volunteering on a project that is based in the same location. For example, if you are a volunteer in Costa Rica on our Eco-Agriculture or Turtle Conservation project, you will be working outside of San Jose (where the rest of our volunteer projects in Costa Rica are located). When you apply to volunteer, simply select "Yes" when asked "Are you volunteering with a friend, family member or group?" and clearly reference your friend's full name in the box below. Local staff will then take this into consideration when making arrangements for you (that's if you haven't driven each other nuts by the time you get off your long haul flight!)
- Kirsty Jamieson (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Can I split my time on the program so I can take part on more than one volunteer project?
Yes! Volunteers on most volunteer abroad programs are able to split their program duration between multiple projects. Based on previous volunteers' experiences and feedback, we recommend volunteers spend at least 2 weeks on each project, before moving on to the next. It is important to note that volunteers on our Bali, Thailand and Tanzania volunteer abroad programs are unfortunately unable to split their time on the program between multiple volunteer projects.
- Claire Chambers (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Can I volunteer abroad with IVHQ and gain course credit, service hours or recognition at my university or school?
Absolutely, provided that your university or school are open to the idea! Many volunteers participate in our volunteer abroad programs to fulfil part of their studies, such as an internship, a basis for their thesis, or for course credit or elective/independent study. It is important to note that volunteers who do this are responsible for ensuring IVHQ programs meet the requirements laid out by their educational institution prior to participating on the program. Before you commit to the program, we recommend you speak with your department and/or advisor to determine their specific requirements. We can then work with you to determine whether your chosen project can meet those requirements.
- Katie Brayne (IVHQ Volunteer Groups and Universities Coordinator)
Do I have to pay a registration fee for each volunteer program I wish to join?
Yes, the registration fee helps pay for ongoing support from IVHQ staff, along with program marketing costs, an information pack, administration costs, a donation to the IVHQ Fund, travel costs to inspect programs and communication costs with volunteers. This fee ensures IVHQ can continue to provide affordable volunteer opportunities, servicing communities in need, which is a win-win for everyone. We do reward those completing more than one program with a US$30 reward which is sent after we have received the registration fee for your second (and onward) program.
- Daniel Sharp (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)
Can I extend my IVHQ volunteer program while in country?
It will be great if you decide to extend your volunteer program while you are in country! All extensions are arranged and paid for directly with the local staff, subject to availability. You will simply need to pay the local staff the difference between the program fee you initially paid to IVHQ and the program fee for the total duration you stay at the program.
- Catherine Heads (IVHQ Administrative Assistant)
How can I connect with other IVHQ volunteers on the same volunteer program as me?
While we are unable to give out the contact details of our volunteers, you can connect with thousands of past, current and future IVHQers via the International Volunteer HQ Facebook group! Post a question and ask who's registered for the same volunteer program as you, browse previous convos, and pick up travel tips from our IVHQ Alumni!
- Ellen Varoy (IVHQ Communications Manager)
Is your Executive Director really Harry Potter?
While identical in name, Daniel Radcliffe of IVHQ is not in fact the British actor who plays the character of Harry Potter. (Believe it or not, this question does come up often). To learn more about our Daniel Radcliffe and how he came to establish IVHQ after his own volunteer abroad experience in Kenya, visit the IVHQ History page.
- Sue Radcliffe (IVHQ Finance Manager) (no relation to Harry Potter)
If your burning question wasn't answered above, visit the International Volunteer HQ FAQ page or contact International Volunteer HQ today!