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How to Choose Right Volunteering Organization

If you’re reading this page, you are probably giving some thought to applying for a volunteer or intern role overseas.  And, as you have probably noticed, there is a raft of organisations across the globe offering you increasingly diverse ways to donate your time and skills where help is needed.


At once this prospect can be exciting and overwhelming.  With the wealth of options out there, how can you chose?  How can you tell whether the organisation and program are right for you?


Before you begin to ask questions to individual organisations concerning their ethics, affiliations and costs, you must begin by asking some questions to yourself, starting with that big one: what do you want?


This can be broken up into several different areas:


Time.  Possibly the most crucial consideration.  We all have restrictions on our time, be those academic, professional or domestic.  The first thing you need to establish is how much time you have to give.  Be realistic and remember that you will be in a foreign country and will want time to explore.  You might even want to consider combining your volunteer placement with travel and tourism  if your schedule is particularly tight.


Location.  It may seem obvious, but ask yourself, where you want to be?  That can be the country you are looking to give your time in or the smaller stuff, such as whether you want to work in a primitive rural environment or perhaps a more developed area, where there are likely to be more modern comforts.


Skills.  You might have a skill (medical, construction, technological) that will greatly benefit others.  You might be looking for an internship to help you on the path to your future career or a volunteer placement that is a complete departure from your day job.  The diversity of opportunities available is phenomenal, only it pays to be clear about your objectives when you begin to search for the right opportunity for you.


Program.  Remember, completing a volunteer placement or an internship is an opportunity you will want to make the absolute best out of; but they are all different.  They run from the short to the long term, some will have specific outcomes, others may be more interminable.  Some programs will be in their developmental stages, others may be more established.  Some will be rely entirely on the help of volunteers, while others may be supported by paid staff members.  Give some thought to the type of program that you wish to work with and what will motivate you most.


Organisation.  Every volunteer organisation is different.  Some organisations will be global with a complex infrastructure, some may be national agents, placing volunteers in foreign countries and others will be ‘grass roots’ organisations, based in the country where you will eventually volunteer.  These organisations will have different structures and values.  They will also offer varying levels of support to their volunteers and interns and will charge significantly different fees for the experiences they provide.  Similarly, organisations may have faith or secular affiliation.  It is important that you understand these differences and how they align with your own values and beliefs.


So, you have finished the interrogation and now it is time to get more information about the organisations and the programs that interest you.  The following list of questions might be helpful:


  • Is the organisation non-governmental and non-profit?
  • What are the values and beliefs of the organisation?  Are they influenced by faith or secular concerns?
  • The volunteer organisation will in most cases charge a fee for the volunteer placement.  Can they clearly demonstrate how volunteer program fees are spent?
  • Can the organisation provide evidence of results of the work undertaken in their programs?  Are development and improvement evidenced?
  • Is there a role description for the placement that interests you?
  • Can the organisation confirm exactly what support is provided to the volunteer, such as transport, guidance with visas, staff support during the placement?
  • Can the volunteer organisation put you in touch with other volunteers who have taken part in their programs?


Most of all, you must assure yourself that your objectives and values are aligned to those of the organisation you are hoping to work with.


Before you embark on a placement with VIN we are happy to provide all the information you require to make an informed decision.  We hope you are able to find a lot of information on our website, but we are always here to help if you have any further questions and we have a large community of past-volunteers who are more than happy to share their experiences with you.


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