Volunteering Abroad - Things to Consider

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Things to consider

Funding your voluntary work abroad

Generally, if you want to volunteer abroad, you will have to pay for the experience. You need to check what is included in any fee you will pay. Some fees will include your food and accommodation as well as air fare, but some will expect payment for food etc once you get there. The further afield you look to travel, the dearer the air fare will be.

Most agencies will help you with ideas for raising the fee. This normally involves holding fundraising events or sponsored events, which has the double advantage of promoting the work of the agency you are volunteering abroad with.

If you have family or friends who belong to organisations like churches, Rotary Club, Lions, Freemasons, trade unions, local councils etc it may be worth approaching them. Some may have dedicated funds (such as Rotary) to give grants to people going to volunteer abroad. Some can even have volunteering opportunities available through their own work.

There are, of course, development agencies and aid agencies who have vacancies for highly skilled and experienced people, which is paid work on a short term contract.

Volunteer Aid work after a disaster

When a disaster occurs in the world, it takes seconds for us to find out. It appears immediately on the news channels, across the internet and in the newspapers. Tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, war; all get massive media coverage. At these times, the number of people seeking voluntary work overseas increases massively. This is understandable, and it is fantastic that so many people want to help, but BE REALISTIC.

At these times of disaster, agencies need highly qualified and experienced people to go and help in the efforts. They will use people who they have used before, and who are on "stand by" and can leave immediately. As noble as your volunteering is, the agencies simply cannot just send you over to help. You need support and training and need to know what to do, as well as a long list of criteria to be met - leave these times to the experienced and consider volunteering in that country after the initial disaster has been overcome. There is sure to be many months and years of ongoing help needed.

Health and well being whilst volunteering overseas

Finally, you will need to have all your health and legal house in order before you go and volunteer abroad. Some of these things take time to organise, so be well organised. Things such as:
* CRB checks - if you are working with children or vulnerable people you will need to have a Criminal Record Beureau Check. These can take 3 months to come through.
* Insurance - make sure you have adequate travel insurance for your voluntary work overseas. Simple travel insurance won’t be enough and you need to find a company that provide dedicated volunteer insurance.
* Visas - check the embassy website for details of what visas will be required.
* Vaccinations - Speak to your doctor about any vaccinations or tablets that you will need to have for the country you are going to.
* Medication - if you use medication, make sure you have sufficient with you for your whole stay; it will not be available in the country you are going to. Also, make sure you insurance will cover your pre-existing health concerns in the case of an emergency.

Coming home from volunteering abroad

Unless they have their own experiences, family and friends will not understand nor empathise with the experiences you have had, which in some cases may be very harrowing. Joining a campaigning group will mean that you can carry on your good work as well as having the support of those who understand your experiences.

GAP year agencies - Volunteering UK and abroad

Some people decide on a place to travel to for a GAP year and just go and see what happens when they get there. For some of us however, the thought is just a little too daunting and the idea of having an agency plan and schedule our activities is far more appealing. The advantage of doing things this way is that you can provide the agency with details of your area of interest practically ensuring that you get to work in that area. This is not an exhaustive list but just a few agencies that offer support with securing GAP year placements:

* Frontier GAP years - Wildlife, marine and environmental conservation abroad
* gap Force - Medical, sport and environmental work abroad
* CAMPS International - Volunteer trips to Africa
* Lattitude - Volunteering opportunities in 17 different countries
* YOMPS - Adventure and experiences of a lifetime
* Year out Group - Help and advice planning your own GAP year including; childrens work, environmental work and community work abroad
* Volunteering england - Opportunities for volunteering in the UK

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