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Questions to ask organisations when volunteering overseas

How was the project identified? Was it from a local perspective, either through a local organisation or via consultation with the local community?

Project background and ethics

  • How was the project identified? Was it from a local perspective, either through a local organisation or via consultation with the local community?
  • Is there a local partner organisation with responsibility for designing and managing the project?
  • Will the project be sustained after the volunteers leave or has it been set up as a one-off opportunity that will only have short term benefits?
  • What is the organisation's philosophy towards development? Whilst many organisations have deep-rooted, sustainable links with communities and local people, others operate on a more commercial basis.

Project Benefits

  • Who will benefit from the project? Will anyone be adversely affected by the project? How will the expectations of the local community be managed?
  • Is there a genuine need for volunteers or has the opportunity been created as an adventure holiday?
  • How can I be sure that the opportunity is not taking away the chance of paid employment for a local person?

 The job

  • Has the volunteer role been clearly defined?
  • What skills are required?
  • Will the volunteers be provided with training?
  • Who will I be working with? Will I be on my own, is there a group of volunteers or does the role involve working alongside local people?

Reputation

  • Does the Foreign and Commonwealth Office approve of travel to this country?
  • Is the organisation is linked to other reputable companies?
  • Does the organisation have reputable travel or government endorsements?
  • How and why was the organisation set up and what sort of organisation is it (e.g. Non Government Organisation (NGO), charity or profit making company)?
  • How long has the organisation been running and how many people does it send overseas?
  • Can I speak with volunteers who have returned from the project to find out about their  experiences?

Practical Arrangements

  • What am I getting for my money?
  • What proportion of the cost goes towards administration and marketing and what goes to the local project that is hosting me?
  • What support and training am I provided with, both before and after?
  • What happens if something goes wrong - for example if I am very ill or have to get home  unexpectedly?  Is repatriation included? Does the organisation have contingency plans for a crisis? Is there an evacuation plan?
  • Will I need my own travel insurance and does the organisation's insurance cover me for the kind of  work that I will be doing? (Think both about health and about belongings).
  • Is there in-country support for the volunteers? This includes practical arrangements such as accommodation and meals as well as support to do the job.

 

  • Date published: 13th April 2013
  • Written by: Tom Green

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