Volunteering In Cambodia - Catching The Cambodia Bug

IVHQ staff regularly travel to visit our volunteer overseas programs to meet with local staff and volunteers, visit volunteer placements and ensure our programs are operating to a high standard. I recently visited our volunteer overseas program in Cambodia, and found I walked away having caught the Cambodia bug…

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Questions All Volunteers Want Answered When They Volunteer Abroad

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!

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World Festivals Worth Traveling For

With volunteer abroad programs in over 25 countries around the world, IVHQ volunteers find themselves in the midst of many of the world's most loved festivals!

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Flying Tips - Your Guide To The Perfect Flight

As a volunteer abroad, you share at least one experience with every other volunteer… Air travel.

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Most Instagrammed Volunteer Overseas Destinations

Here at International Volunteer HQ, we love coming to work each day, knowing we're helping people of all ages and nationalities travel the world affordably, while making contributions to developing communities.

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Volunteer Abroad Reviews For Parents By Parents

Do you have (or are you) a parent looking for feedback from parents of past IVHQ volunteers...?

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5 Volunteers Who Will Inspire You To Volunteer Abroad

We love hearing and sharing stories of international volunteers achieving amazing things on IVHQ volunteer abroad programs, so much so that International Volunteer HQ is currently accepting nominations for the 2014 IVHQ

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Behind the Scenes with Volunteers in South America

Summing up her visits to our Ecuador and Colombia volunteer abroad programs, IVHQ’s Lydia takes us behind the scenes…

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10 Conservation Volunteer Opportunities

To celebrate June 5th AKA World Environment Day, we're sharing 10 Conservation Volunteer Opportunities offered through International Volunteer HQ!

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10 Reasons Volunteers Choose Cambodia

With IVHQ's growing list of volunteer program destinations, the decision of where to go can become difficult! To help, we've listed 10 reasons why IVHQers choose to volunteer in Cambodia!

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What Should iPack?

When you volunteer overseas, what technology should come with you?

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Tips For Being A Valuable Volunteer

Everyone who volunteers abroad with IVHQ wants to make a difference and do some good. That goal is equal parts admirable and inspiring, and I’m constantly amazed by the passion and authentic drive that our volunteers have to make a positive contribution to a community. But it’s not easy.

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10 Reasons Volunteers Love Tanzania

Tanzania is rich in culture and a favorite destination for IVHQ Volunteers. While this list could've had 101 reasons, we've narrowed it down to the Top 10 thanks to suggestions from IVHQ volunteers in Tanzania.

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10 Signs You're The Perfect IVHQ Volunteer

Do you fit the bill?

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18 Places You Need To Visit While You're Young

The best part about this list is you can visit all of these places during your weekends while volunteering overseas with IVHQ!

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10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Volunteer In Asia

International Volunteer HQ encourage those who volunteer overseas to immerse themselves in the culture of their destination and spend their #IVHQweekends capturing stunning sights from around the world! Here's a collection of volunteer photos in Asia, which we guarantee will have you reaching for your passport!

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East Africa Volunteer Program Swap

With the establishment of our new partnership in Uganda, IVHQ sponsored a volunteer program swap in East Africa. The aim of the swap was to provide the opportunity for our TanzaniaKenya and Uganda teams to collaborate, share ideas and experiences, and discuss best practices around hosting IVHQ volunteers in East Africa.

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5 Things You Never Knew You Could Do With IVHQ

We're all about transparency here at IVHQ, whether we're talking volunteer program fees or new program opportunities... But here are 5 things many of you never knew you could do with IVHQ!

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10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Volunteer In Latin America

If you're having trouble trying to narrow down your list of continents to volunteer overseas in, these 10 photos should help convince you to become a volunteer in Latin America!

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Volunteer Stories: Mikael Aberra Gobeze

Mikael Aberra Gobeze, who volunteered with IVHQ in Brazil in 2012, directed the documentary IASESPE: Fight For A Favela, which raised $11,000 to support a community center within the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

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Top Fundraising Tips to Volunteer Overseas

International Volunteer HQ is known for offering the most affordable volunteer overseas programs around, but we all know that flights, visas, travel insurance, and vaccinations can be costly!

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Volunteer Inspiration of the Day

How does a mother-daughter volunteer trip to Kenya result in the establishment of a project to be served by future IVHQ volunteers, enabling developmentally disabled adults of the Kibera slum to enter the workforce?

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15 Things Every Volunteer In Bali Should Do

Arriving as a volunteer in Bali, your bucket list will be full of ‘must do’ activities for your volunteer program and your #IVHQweekends! To kick start your list, here are the 15 things we think every volunteer should do in Bali...

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10 Photos That Will Make You Want To Volunteer In Africa

If you're feeling travel bugish after scrolling through these photos, please direct all complaints to the guilty Instagramers AKA our volunteers in Africa.

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The 7 Types Of IVHQer

Which type of IVHQer are you?

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Packing Tips From The IVHQ Team

When prepping to travel overseas, are you a forward-thinking "my 30 day countdown has begun, better start packing" packer, or a last minute "eeek, my flight leaves in 2 hours" packer?

Whichever category you fit into, a good packing tip doesn’t go astray to avoid an extra heavy, unorganised, and cluttered backpack (that’s filled with everything you don’t need, and nothing you do)!

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IVHQ's Most Loved Instagrams

With over 9,000 photos tagged with #IVHQ, Instagram continues to be a popular platform for IVHQ volunteers to connect, share and inspire each other while they volunteer overseas. It's also one of our favorite ways to keep you posted with news and insights from the IVHQ Crew... So here, we're sharing this month's most loved Instagrams from @IVHQ - as loved by you!

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Responsible Volunteer Travel

Learn about IVHQ’s newest team member and what he’s doing to ensure IVHQ can keep improving as a responsible volunteer travel organization.

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Must-Have Volunteer Travel Apps

Whether your weapon of choice is an iPhone or Android device, it's hard to imagine traveling without the comfort of referring to your smartphone for directions, or to triple check your flight schedule. To save you the hassle of scrolling through pages and pages of travel apps in the App Store/Google Play, we've turned to the IVHQ team for their must-have travel app suggestions!

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Volunteering In Cambodia - Catching The Cambodia Bug

As I write this blog post on a bumpy bus traveling from Siem Reap back to Phnom Penh (ensuring my computer spell-check gets a good work-out), I can finally admit that I have caught the Cambodia bug, and have fallen in love with this spectacular country and its people.

IVHQ staff regularly travel to visit our volunteer overseas programs to meet with local staff and volunteers, visit volunteer placements and ensure our programs are operating to a high standard. I recently visited our volunteer overseas program in Cambodia, and found I walked away having caught the Cambodia bug… Here’s why:

 

Reason One: The People

When volunteering in Cambodia, the moment you step off the plane, you’re greeted by the infectious Cambodian smile! The scrum at the airport arrivals gate can be overwhelming, but it’s simple to spot the bright green International Volunteer HQ sign through the masses. I found the local staff couldn’t do enough for you, from organizing tuk-tuks to recommending local delicacies (both wacky and delicious)! 

Try volunteering in Cambodia to find out for yourself!

 

Reason Two: Real Cambodian Hospitality

I was very fortunate to visit a number of the volunteer homestays and volunteer houses during my time in Cambodia. While volunteering in Cambodia, you'll have access to electricity, running water and great hosts! One thing was certain on a visit to the volunteer homestays and volunteer houses, and that's how you immediately feel at ease with the offer of fresh fruit, lots of smiles and great conversation! Sure, we call it a "Cambodian volunteer homestay" or "Cambodian volunteer house", but at the end of your trip, you'll simply call it home!

Experience the Cambodia hospitality for yourself, and become a volunteer overseas in Cambodia!

 

Reason Three: Cambodia Food

I've eaten well too much food during my visit. As a volunteer in Cambodia, you’re taught during volunteer orientation that it’s impolite to leave food on your plate. Instead of being overwhelmed by this, I took it as a challenge! What’s not to love about fresh vegetables, delicious meat, mouth watering spices, all presented on fresh rice? Sounds like a nice daily meal? While volunteering in Cambodia, you’ll get this type of meal TWICE a day (and if you’re out working at your placement, you’ll get to take a lunchbox along with you)! Plus if you're extra adventurous, try joining the locals in some of the street-side restaurants with delicious options, including Fish Amok, Bai Sach Chrouk (BBQ pork and rice) and Kuy Teav (noodle soup)!

What food should you expect as a volunteer overseas in Cambodia? Visit the IVHQ Volunteer in Cambodia page for details on volunteer meals.

 

Reason Four: Meaningful Volunteer Opportunities

There’s a genuine need for volunteers in Cambodia. In Siem Reap alone, I visited three orphanages and the sheer size of the facilities versus the small staff sizes was mind-blowing. The lack of resources and money means these orphanages are at their staffing limit, so volunteers are essential in assisting local staff with varied activities in running the centers. If you’ve got interests in childcare and teaching, along with music, dance and sport, you’ll fit in perfectly as a volunteer overseas in Cambodia, as these are the activities the children love!

Find a full list of IVHQ's volunteer overseas programs in Cambodia on our website.

 

Reason Five: Stunning Sightseeing!

From the stunning Temples of Angkor Wat in the North to the beaches of Sihanoukville in the South, there is an abundance of Cambodia travel and tour options! While volunteering in Cambodia, you'll have the opportunity to visit the Royal Palace and the National Museum in Phonm Penh, while also spending your IVHQ weekends traveling further afield. A minivan or bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (to go Temple hunting), or Sihanoukville (to relax on the beach), takes around 7 hours and can cost between $5USD and $15USD (depending on your preferred level of comfort)! When you're volunteering in Cambodia, you'll be in close proximity to Vietnam and Thailand, so asking your boss for that extra week off work is advised!

Visit the IVHQ website to discover more Cambodia Travel and Tour options.

I consider myself fortunate to have walked in the shoes of an IVHQ volunteer on our volunteer overseas program in Cambodia and as cliché as it sounds, I know I’ll return. The Cambodia bug has got the better of me!

 

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Questions All Volunteers Want Answered When They Volunteer Abroad

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! 

 

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World Festivals Worth Traveling For

With volunteer abroad programs in over 25 countries around the world, IVHQ volunteers find themselves in the midst of many of the world's most loved festivals! And many make the most of their time overseas by merging a volunteer program with the likes of world festivals, such as Carnaval in Brazil or The Great Migration in Kenya! 

Thanks to the team at IVHQ, we've pulled together this list of world festivals that we're sure you'll agree are are worth traveling for!

World Festivals - Brazilian Carnaval   

When: From the Friday to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period before Easter)

Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 

Why you should travel for this: Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is a world famous festival held before Lent every year and is considered the biggest Carnaval in the world with 2 million people per day on the streets! Celebrations are filled with samba music, colorful costumes, and giant parades. Those who are interested in not only experiencing Carnaval during a visit to Brazil, but would also like to be a part of the preparations of this fantastic festival, have the opportunity to volunteer on the IVHQ Brazil Carnaval project. The Brazil Carnaval project runs from October through February annually and ends once the Carnaval festivities are over for the year. However, it is important to note that during the Carnaval celebrations, volunteer work will not be held and volunteers are encouraged to enjoy the festival while still living in the volunteer accommodation (please ask one of our friendly IVHQ staff members with regards to the additional costs during Carnaval).  

- Hannah Hill-Parker (IVHQ Latin America Volunteer Coordinator)

Find out more or apply to volunteer overseas in Brazil for Carnaval!

 

World Festivals - Songkran 

When: Celebrated annually as the traditional New Year's day from the 13th to 15th of April

Where: Thailand

Why you should travel for this: This is the world's greatest water fight! People of all ages are getting involved where the streets are littered with people throwing, spraying and spashling everybody and anything that goes past (people inside vehicles are not exempt). This festival is celebrated as the traditional New Years day from 13th to the 15th April. The reason it has developed into a full country scale water fight is from the traditional idea that throwing of water is meant as a symbol of washing all of the bad away. In the traditional manner the water was infused with fragrant herbs, however herbs have been replaced with super soakers. If you are there, it is a lot of fun.

- Reeve Barnett (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)

Tie the world's most epic water fight with a volunteer program in Thailand next April!

 

World Festivals - Carnaval de Barranquilla

When: 4 days before Ash Wednesday in February

Where: Barranquilla, Colombia

Why you should travel for this: For a long weekend of music, dancing, costumes and fun. This colourful festival is the second biggest Carnival in the world, behind Rio de Janeiro's, and combines indigenous ceremonies with Afro-Colombian music and Catholic festivities brought to the region by Spanish colonists. National and foreign tourists join the local inhabitants to enjoy all that the festival has to offer. Everybody dresses up in costumes ranging from the original Barranquilla La Marimonda mask to costumes influenced from all around the world. To top it off, Barranquilla is only a 2 to 3 hour bus ride from IVHQ's volunteer program in Cartagena!

- Lydia Van Den Assum (IVHQ Latin America Program Coordinator)

Keep February free for this festive weekend when you apply to volunteer overseas in Colombia - Cartagena!

 

World Festivals - Holi 

When: Last full moon day of the lunar month (2015: March 6th, 2016: March 23rd) 

Where: India and Nepal

Why you should travel for this: Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning you will find the streets a colorful blur as people throw colored dye in the air, showing laughter and delight at the arrival of the Spring Festival. The Festival of Colors is celebrated on the last full moon day of the lunar month, Phalguna, to promote love and friendship. During this time you will hear many people yelling out “Happy Holi” and all social barriers are relaxed and in addition to the boisterous nature of the festival, this is a time for family members to get together, give gifts, eat special foods and decorate their homes. Overall, this is one of the most spirited and beloved festivals of the Hindu calendar. Conveniently, the festivities are easily accessible for IVHQ volunteers before starting/after completing one of our volunteer abroad programs in India (Delhi or Dharamsala) or Nepal!

- Kirsty Jamieson (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)

- Daniel Sharp (IVHQ Volunteer Coordinator)

Find yourself in the mix of Holi, either as a volunteer overseas in India or a volunteer overseas in Nepal!

 

World Festivals - Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead)

When: 1st and 2nd of November

Where: Mexico

Why you should travel for this: Each year at the start of November, Mexico turns its thoughts to the departed during the Day of the Dead festivities, a colorful tradition deeply rooted in indigenous culture. For Mexicans, death is more a cause for celebration than mourning, and that spirit has been kept very much alive in Patzcuaro, the Dia de Muertos Mecca. Prepare yourself to battle large crowds of the living as all of Mexico celebrates the dead. It involves celebrating the reunion of relatives with their dearly departed. There will be colorful costumes, lots of skeletons, parties in cemeteries, skull-shaped lollies and mariachi bands performing next to graves. And lots of food and drink! Everyone should experience this event as it will show a different cultural perspective of death; as a joyous celebration of life rather than something to fear.

- Kate Pilon (IVHQ Asia Volunteer Coordinator)

- Claire Chambers (IVHQ Africa Volunteer Coordinator)

Celebrate Dia de Muertos the local way as a volunteer overseas in Mexico!

 

World Festivals - Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth)

When: 10 days leading up to the full moon (July or August)

Where: Kandy, Sri Lanka

Why you should travel for this: Kandy’s Esala Perahera is the most spectacular of Sri Lanka’s festivals, and one of the most colorful religious celebrations in Asia. It is a 10-day procession of Buddha’s Sacred Tooth, and takes place in the 10 days leading up to the full moon of either July or August each year. Thousands of years ago, the Sri Lankans snuck one of Buddha’s teeth away from the funeral pyre, and hid it in their home country. It is now believed to be the only physical remnant of Buddha left in the world, and understandably is housed with much reverence and security in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth in Kandy. Throughout the years, colonialists have tried to steal the tooth and take it for their own, but the Sri Lankans won out, and still have it (hoorah!). Traditionally the tooth has always remained hidden in the temple, for fear of being stolen, but a previous King decided that his people should have freedom to worship and celebrate this relic and pay homage to Buddha; thus the 10-day celebration and procession was born. For a country that is 70% Buddhist, and has over 20 million people, this festival is a HUGE event, with accommodation booked out months (even years) in advance, mostly by Sri Lankans themselves. IVHQ volunteers, however, naturally have their own accommodation in Kandy as part of their volunteer work, and they have evenings and weekends free for their own personal use. Lucky for them, the festival’s processions all take place at night, with firelight and fire-dancers leading the way. So, if you’d like to experience this breath-taking display of passionate and colorful worship, check out the dates of the festival, and apply for the corresponding start date of an IVHQ Sri Lanka volunteer program! Esala Perahera is not only a festival at the heart of Sri Lanka’s people, it is also at the heart of the nation as well, as Kandy is the center-most point of the famous “tear-drop island”. Speaking from experience, it makes for a double whammy of magical!

- Katie Brayne (IVHQ Groups and Universities Coordinator)

Experience Esala Perahera first-hand and apply to volunteer overseas in Sri Lanka!

 

World Festivals - Rocking the Daisies  

When: Usually the first weekend of October
Where: Darling, Western Cape, South Africa
Why you should travel for this: Festivals are a great way to spend a long weekend in South Africa and this is one of the best music festivals to be found here. Festival-goers camp onsite and not only is it a guaranteed good time but also just 1.5 hours drive from our IVHQ South Africa volunteer program base in Muizenberg. This festival is planet friendly in that the idea is to 'tread lightly' - have a great weekend but not leave a mark when it's done. There's an extremely wide range of stages to cater for different music tastes (there's even a comedy tent) and a variety of food and drink stalls too. If you overheat while you're dancing away, you can cool off in the dam conveniently found at the venue!

If you are not going to be in South Africa over October then another top festival is Up the Creek. This 4-day weekend festival is in the peak of summer (first weekend of February) and is a great way to relax and have a good time. The festival is located 2.5 hours from Muizenberg, acts focus largely on local South African music, but there will always be a big headline act too (usually international). There are great food and drink stalls available at the venue and as the name implies, the festival is set beside a large creek with stages all around and bands playing throughout the day. There is dry land for dancing and covered areas to relax if you wish, but most festival goers head into the creek with their lilos or other colorful floatation devices to enjoy the music while drifting in groups on the water. Every year there is an "anything that floats" competition for the best raft too!

- Jamie-lee Reynolds (IVHQ Programs Manager, IVHQ Office Manager)

Apply to volunteer overseas in South Africa over October so you can rock the weekend away!

 

World Festivals - All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival  

When: 1st of November

Where: Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala

Why you should travel for this: Marking the beginning of the Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, the kite festival is a beautiful fusion of Catholic and indigenous Aztec traditions. In Latin American cultures, the link between the living and dead is believed to be closer around Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In Guatemala, the locals take to the graveyards, decorating gravestones with elaborate altars adorned with marigolds and offerings in attempt to lure their loved ones back to life. The best part is the kite festival, during which barilletas gigantes - massive handmade kites up to 50 feet in diameter that depict religious, folkloric and political art - are flown at dusk in attempt to communicate with the dead. The day is otherwise spent flying smaller kites and enjoying the local food, beverages and dancing. It's a great opportunity to see both a tradition-rich celebration and a feat of local engineering. As an IVHQ volunteer in Guatemala, you're just 35 minutes away from the celebrations!

- Chelsea Green (Training & Development Manager, Latin America Program Coordinator)

Note to self: volunteer overseas in Guatemala in November to catch wind of this kite fest! 

 

World Festivals - The Great Migration

When: June to October (Kenya), October to May (Tanzania)

Where: East Africa

Why you should travel for this: Watch more than a million wildebeest and zebra congregate in Kenya's Masai Mara after having journeyed across the Serengeti in Northern Tanzania. These magnificent animals have to cross crocodile-infested rivers in order to reach vegetation and once there, they then need to evade the reserve’s ultra-predators: lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena - this is an incredibly dramatic time to be in the reserve.

- Louise Frame (IVHQ Africa Program Coordinator)

Make the most of a trip to East Africa to catch The Great Migration and volunteer overseas in Kenya or volunteer overseas in Tanzania!

 

World Festivals - Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

When: January 5th until the end of February (weather permitting)

Where: Harbin, China

Why you should travel for this: You'll want to dress up warm for this one, as you gaze upon awe-inspiring ice and snow sculptures, towering over 20 feet in height! In preparation for the festival, 15,000 people carve more than 4 million cubic feet of ice, creating a true Winter Wonderland! When the sun goes down, the show really begins, as the sculptures are lit up, ensuring your Instagram feed will be filled in minutes! Harbin is only a 2.5 hour flight from the IVHQ China volunteer house, so a visit during one of your #IVHQweekends is an absolute must!

- Jordan McFadyen (IVHQ Community Manager)

Save the date and volunteer overseas in China while you're there!

 

World Festivals - Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (The Grape Harvest Festival)

When: First weekend of March

Where: Mendoza City, Argentina

Why you should travel for this: Coined the Carnaval for wine enthusiasts, The Grape Harvest Festival attracts hundreds and thousands of people to Argentina's most prestigious wine-making region, marking the start of the grape-picking season. To top off the abundance of Malbec (Argentina's signature wine), the city-wide celebrations boast a collaboration of traditional cuisine, parades, fokloric song and dance, and the selection of a Reina Nacional de la Vendimia (National Vendimia Queen), complete with an elaborate fireworks display. If you're an IVHQ volunteer in Argentina, you're in luck - Mendoza is only a 7-hour drive away from the volunteer house in Cordoba, so you may want to consider a program to coincide with this famous fest!

- Ellen Varoy (IVHQ Communications Manager)

Visit as a volunteer, celebrate like a local and volunteer overseas in Argentina!

Do you know of another world festival worth traveling for? Let us know in the comments below! Speaking of things that are worth traveling for, check out our 18 Places You Need To Visit While You're Young post!

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