So, you have a couple of weeks or longer to spare in the summer and you are looking to do something worthwhile with your time. “What challenges or adventures can I embark on?”, you may ask yourself…
There are hundreds of volunteering programmes available all over the world and you can get a little lost when researching online, as there are so many to choose from! You will understandably want to make sure you are getting the most for your money and, in turn, making a positive impact on the community you are visiting. How do you possibly decide?
Here are a few steps of advice to support you in finding a meaningful summer volunteer programme abroad:
- What are you looking to get out of volunteering abroad?
Making a difference
If you really would like to make a difference during your time volunteering, then choosing a respectable and responsible travel company is key. How can you check? Look for the company’s accreditations on their website – ABTA and ATOL are particularly important. Do they have a responsible tourism policy and ethos that is dedicated to making positive change in the host communities in which they work? Do they show this commitment through sharing their goals and progress on their website? If yes, then this is a good start!
Personal gain and achievement
What are your goals and expectations? You may wish to tailor your trip to suit precise requirements you have in order to enhance your personal development or particular career interests. Many programmes will offer you the opportunity to do this through specific volunteer roles and tailored programmes. So, if you are looking for some teaching experience, to practise your sports coaching skills or gain experience in a medical environment then look out for tailored summer camp programmes in such fields.
- Choosing your destination and programme
Perhaps you have a part of the world you have been eager to visit for a long time or perhaps you are happy to go anywhere and everywhere and don’t know where to begin! This point links with the above in that as long as you choose a company that is responsible in their practices then you should be able to have the trip of a lifetime wherever you go! If you do have a country or continent in mind, however, start researching volunteering programmes in these areas and start weighing up the pros and cons of each one to help you get a clearer idea of which programme you would like to embark on. Considerations include what you are getting for the price, the type of volunteering you would like to do and whether you are looking for a set itinerary or more free travel. There will be a company out there who can put together the perfect package for you!
- Cost vs. value
Enrolling in a volunteer programme will inevitably come with costs; getting value for your money is what is key here. The costs will generally cover things like accommodation, in-country trip hosts (24/7 support), in-country transfers and project work. A good travel company will be clear with you from the start what is included and what is not, so there are no hidden surprises! If you are travelling independently it can be reassuring to know you will have someone on hand if you need anything.
The most important thing is that you will be gaining a worthwhile volunteering experience; one which not only benefits you but is part of a longer term goal of sustainable project development within the host communities. If you travel with a responsible volunteering company, you should benefit from hosts who have expert knowledge of the area you are visiting, which should enhance your experience.
- Adding some adventure
Helping to make a difference is clearly very important but you might like some adventure from your volunteering trip too! If you are working hard, you surely deserve to play hard too and enjoy some R&R as part of your programme. Many volunteering opportunities abroad will offer additional adventure and cultural-immersion activities for you to discover and explore the local area, during weekends or either side of your volunteering programme. It would be a shame to travel to the other side of the world and not explore the beauty and enchants of the continent you are visiting!
- How do I make it happen?
After doing some initial research, why not get in touch with a handful of volunteer travel providers for some expert advice to help you take the next step in booking the right programme for you. The ‘right’ company will have friendly travel experts delighted to answer any queries you may have, who more often than not have volunteered at some point themselves, and will be able to advise you and guide you on your way to having the adventure of a lifetime!
What are you waiting for? If you are looking to travel this summer, there are many companies who will be delighted to hear from you. So, step out of your comfort zone, broaden your horizons and share an incredible experience with new friends. Start your journey today!
To get an idea of what meaningful summer volunteer programmes are on offer, why not take a look at African Adventures to inspire you?