How to Pick the Right Volunteer Travel Program
So you are thinking about signing up for a volunteer travel program? Congratulations! It will be one of the most interesting and rewarding things you ever do. I talk about some on my blog that I or people I trust have visited, but there are thousands to pick from. As someone who has researched countless volunteer travel programs and participated in many, I have learned to look for the answers to certain questions when selecting a program.
Here are some of the key things I consider:
Does the program seem organized?
I have been to a variety of programs, and I find the best ones are well structured with clear volunteer tasks, work schedule, and procedures. I should say, however, that I am the type of volunteer who likes to get things done and feel my time is useful, so I like a lot of structure. You may be the type of person that won’t mind if you sit around for hours each day while they figure out what to do with you – but when I had that experience, it left me frustrated.
Do they offer pictures to show you the facilities and volunteer activities?
This is crucial for a few reasons. First, because you want to make sure they are legitimate. Second, you want to make sure you know what you are getting into. Especially for first time volunteer travelers, the accommodations can sometimes be less than you expected, or the work harder than expected. You want to have a clear picture of what you are signing up for before you join.
Do they have a Facebook page?
If so, this can be a great resource to see posts about projects they have been working on, comments from previous volunteers, and pictures. You can even contact previous volunteers who have posted comments and ask them questions about the program, the accommodations, and their experience.
Can you find reviews about the program from other volunteers?
I am a big review user for everything from what I buy on amazon to hotels I book, so it is natural for me to hunt for reviews on the programs I am choosing from. You can read the reviews on the organization’s web site and social media channels, but be sure to also Google the group’s name plus “reviews” to see if you can find some independent reviews which are not under their control. As with the reviews on our site, you can be sure that independent reviews are credible.
Is it a cause you care about? AND in a place you want to visit?
Personally, I think you will enjoy the experience even more if it is focused on a cause you care about and even better if it is in a country/area you want to visit. I love spending time with animals (especially primates) and visiting new countries (especially developing countries) so I focus my searches in these areas.
Those are some tips to help you evaluate programs. Regardless of what you pick, the most important step is going in with an open mind and good attitude. Good luck!