If it sounds like a dream come true there is one important thing to be considered – you won’t be paid a cent. Volunteer abroad experiences, despite the lack of financial recompenses, may be by far one of the most rewarding experiences of your life…..
In a 12 month volunteer abroad gap year, I helped the cultural practices of the indigenous people of Borneo, taught English at a technical School for boys in Thailand, worked as a recycle and Organic farm hand in England, was a general farm hand in Bavaria and a field worker for the Sea Turtles Protection Society of Greece.
I was blessed by the high priestesses of the Kadazan and learned to cook Bornean food in a long house. I climbed over stiles in the Kent Downs and drank ale in a 500-year-old pub. I swam with sea turtles and helped prepare for the local Assumption church service on a Greek beach. I met people who earned their living harvesting birds nests for Chinese soup and went carolling through the suburban streets of Chiang Mai on Christmas Eve. I helped in a chicken slaughter house and planted a field of potatoes.
Why Volunteer Abroad with IVI
The concept of volunteer travel and working overseas had appealed to me for a long time, but I was not willing to sign up to a stringent and expensive program like many volunteer organisations. I wanted to travel and visit several countries in one year. I also wanted a fair bit of time to play tourist and do my own thing. After all, what’s a year off work if you never get a holiday?
But I wanted to do more than just backpack around the world and be a traveller on a gap year. I wanted to see more of the places I was visiting than just the inside of the local youth hostel and the attractions. I liked the idea of working with local people on worthwhile projects. Learning about their customs, understanding some of their cultures and living a small part of their life. I wanted to give something to the places I visited instead of just taking.
Involvement Volunteers Association Inc (IVI) was the organisation that made it all possible. IVI is a non-profit org, so unlike many other volunteer agencies shareholder profits are not the primary focus. They’ve been around for over 25 years and are deeply rooted in volunteerism (not voluntourism). They’re small enough to ensure minimal bureaucracy but large enough to provide quality structured projects. Most of all, they focus on deeper more meaningful projects. As a volunteer I want to truly make a difference! I want to ensure my time and energy is spent benefiting the lives of those less fortunate than I.
What to expect as a volunteer
Most of IVI placements are for a minimum 2 weeks, which means you don’t have to give up your job or your life back home. You choose the countries that you wish to visit, the types of projects you want to join, when you want to volunteer and when you want time off.
IVI will write a program to suit you and adjust it until you are satisfied. Projects available include medical volunteering, conservation, education, social services, special needs care, community development, construction, administration, Information Technology, and other rural or urban preferences and skilled specialisation where applicable.
While most people who undertake short-term volunteer projects travel as individuals, it is possible to volunteer and travel with one or more friends or even your whole family. However, this may restrict the kind of projects you can do. There is no upper age limit, although volunteers must be at least 17 years old. The youngest volunteers I worked with were 18 and the oldest was 72!
Involvement Volunteers can help you to make a difference in the world!
GO HERE to see the programs