WHAT DOES A VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE ABROAD REALLY ENTAIL?
This year’s prize for the best essay completion is a two week volunteer experience in Asia sponsored by International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). Will Rowland, Head of Asia Programs, has given us some tips below on what the experience is really like.
1. How long has IVHQ been operating in NZ?
We’ve been operating since 2007. Since then, we have placed over 90,000 volunteers abroad in over 40 destinations around the world.
2. What countries do people go to?
We have over 40 destinations around the world . Our most popular destinations are Bali, Costa Rica, Peru and Kenya.
3. How many people go per year and where are most of them from?
The majority of IVHQ volunteers are from the USA, UK, Canada and Australia. Since 2007, we have placed 90,000 volunteers on our programs. This year, we will assist over 13,000 volunteers to volunteer abroad.
4. What is the range of countries you operate in, in Asia and the most popular?
In Asia, we work in 15 destinations across 11 countries. Our most popular destination is Bali – Ubud, followed by our programs in Vietnam, India, and Nepal.
Information on each destination can be found here:
5. Is there anything about working with people/non-profits in Asia that is different from other areas? If so, how do you mitigate these differences?
Each destination is different, more urban locations such as Ho Chi Minh City or our Cambodia Program in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap focus a lot of Human Development projects such as Childcare, Teaching or Working with NGOs. On the other hand, destinations in more coastal areas like our program in Indonesia or in the Philippines have these Human Development projects alongside conservation focused projects such as Turtle Conservation or an Environmental project.
6. What are the major considerations a student needs to make in choosing a country?
Deciding where to volunteer is a personal decision and we recommend doing independent research on countries that appeal to you on both a tourist and cultural level. It may also be helpful to consider which causes you are interested in as that will help determine a suitable destination for your volunteering efforts.
It is difficult for me to recommend what is a “good” destination for someone as all of our programs and all of our volunteers are unique. What is good for some may not be good for others. Independent research is the best way to determine a good fit for you, and we will be happy to answer any questions that come along the way.
7. Are you seeing volunteer travel as a growing business and what opportunities/challenges does this create?
There has been some controversy in the news around volunteer organisation placement, like the recent news article about orphanage placings – how do you guard against any similar issues?
We feel that people are becoming more and more socially aware of global issues and as a result becoming more responsible travelers. Like any organization, it’s important that we respond to.
In regards to working within orphanages, we won’t be placing volunteers in any orphanages or residential care placements after March 2019. We have supported several responsible orphanage placements on our programs in the past and will continue to do so until March next year, but we are now shifting our focus to supporting projects that provide family or community-based care to children in need, like day-care centres and kindergartens for example. Over the next 12 months, we will be working closely with the local teams that host IVHQ volunteers in each country to ensure ensure that we remove the support that our volunteers provide to the small number of residential care placements responsibly.
8. For the winner of the 2 week volunteer experience in Asia prize, can you run through with what is involved:
The winner will receive a complimentary Registration Fee (US$299) and 2-week Program Fee.
IVHQ is your main point of contact. I will work with the winner to decide where they wish to go and what they wish to do. Once the destination is decided, they will apply and they will be put in touch with a dedicated Program Expert.
- What happens from when I land in the country till when I leave?
While in-country, we have a local team on the ground who offers 24/7 support. For the majority of our programs, your accommodation and meals throughout your stay are covered by the program fees. Depending on the location, extra costs may be snacks, water etc, as well as transport to and from the placement, and return transfer to the airport at the end of the program.
- What happens afterwards?
After the program, which usually finish on a Saturday. The volunteer will make their own way to the airport, and head on home. We ask for feedback on the volunteer’s experience and can continue to provide any support they need. Some volunteers request reference letters etc. which we are happy to provide. All volunteers receive a Certificate in International Volunteering once they have submitted their feedback.
- What are the major challenges you think people face on these trips?
Culture shock is very common among any travelers but I think particularly volunteers because they are so much more involved in the local communities than your average tourist. Recently I’ve been sharing a really great TEDx Talk which talks about this and how to embrace it.
- What are the major opportunities from this experience and what do people go on to do afterwards?
We have a wide range of stories from volunteers over the years. These range from volunteers simply being more involved with volunteer work back in their own country, to volunteers going on to continue humanitarian efforts abroad or setting up their own placements/projects abroad. For a more in-depth look at our Impact on our local communities, and on volunteers you may like to check out our Impact Report for 2017. Particularly page 10 and 11 will help answer this question.
- Have you had a volunteer experience and if so, where is your favourite place or where do you want to go next?
Yes! I volunteered abroad in Cambodia for 3 months before joining the team here at IVHQ. It was part of my travel after leaving University and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It gave me so much more perspective and certainly guided what I wanted to do with my immediate career. Cambodia will also be a pretty special place for me but through working IVHQ I’ve also traveled to Kenya and Tanzania which are favourites. Next I’m heading a little closer to home to Samoa for a family holiday but I’m hoping to visit the Maldives soon too. Environmental Conservation is something I am really interested in and I think the Maldives is really on the receiving end of a lot of the core issues around our current way of living.
9. Is there anything else you think would be useful to students to know about?
Most important thing – I’m always here and happy to answer any questions. We have a lot of great resources on our website which you could spend hours reading, but I’m here to answer any questions or point you in the right direction.