How to: Volunteer abroad

Working abroad to help underprivileged communities is a rewarding feat… So why not volunteer?

Whether you’re still in education, or you want to take some time off work to do some good, volunteering abroad could be a great way to help others by utilising your skills and dedication to make a difference.

We’ve already covered the benefits of volunteering, but here are a few things you should think about before you set off:


Consider your options

With many different volunteering organisations and fields to choose from, finding one that best suits your skills and attributes is vital to ensuring your help will be as useful as possible.

If you’re currently at University, think about approaching the volunteering society (if you have one) to seek advice and guidance on what organisation is best for you. Some organisations also offer academic credit to help you get involved.

When looking for volunteer work, you can either go directly through a grassroot organisation, or find a placement through a third party – but whichever direction you go in, make sure it’s a reputable company.

Deciding where to go is also an important choice to make, so be sure to read up on all of the parts of the world that are looking for volunteers before you make a decision.


Research organisations

When it comes to choosing an organisation to work with, always do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Ask how long they’ve been working with their local partners, for example. By making sure they really understand what their local partner needs, you’ll be able to figure out what kind of help you can provide. It also ensures you’ll be working towards a good cause.

Additionally, always read up on other volunteers’ experiences with the organisation, and find out what fields and areas of the world they cover to decide if they match what you’re looking for.

By checking that the goals set in place by the organisation are driven by the local community, and that the projects result in a sustainable outcome, you can ensure you’re working towards a project you’re passionate about.


Find out what the role will actually entail

Make sure you’re qualified for the type of role you’re choosing to do.

If it’s not something you’d have the skills to do in the UK, then it might not be the right move for you. Especially as things will only seem harder to pick up if you’re outside of your comfort zone in foreign climes.

And remember: it’s not something you should walk into blindly.

Being prepared for your tasks and duties while you’re there will make you a much better worker, and means your trip will have a good sense of purpose from the outset. Think about what you want to learn, where your strengths lie, and what transferrable skills you can offer.

If in doubt, ask. Characteristics you might think are considered prerequisites, such as language skills, might not be essential for every role, so if you have any questions make sure you check with your prospective employer before applying.


Evaluate the amount of commitment needed

How much time do you have? What do you want to achieve?

Assessing the amount of time and effort needed in a volunteering project is important. If you’ve only got a few weeks to spare, and the community you’re looking at helping are looking for someone to make an impact in the long term, it probably isn’t the right role for you.

But don’t panic if you’re not free for a long period of time. Typical timescales for voluntary positions abroad can range from anything from a few weeks to over a year.

Simply cater your choices to the timescale and availability you have to work with, and you’ll still be able to make a difference.


Think about your options at home

Committing yourself to a project abroad is a big decision. So before making your mind up about jetting off, always ask yourself whether you might be better off volunteering at home instead.

If you’re only looking for some quick work experience to bulk up your CV, volunteering abroad probably isn’t for you. Although it is without a doubt a great way to exemplify your skills and drive, volunteering should primarily be driven by passion, dedication, and commitment to help others.

If you’re still not sure, write up a list of pros and cons about pursuing a project away from home, including factors such as cost and whether it’s working on something you can only do outside of the UK, to help see if working abroad is right for you.


Be prepared

Finally, whatever you choose to do, remember: it’s not a holiday.

Although you’ll get to travel and explores new places, the main purpose of volunteering is to help others in struggling countries build better communities.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy every aspect of your trip – just be clear on what you want to achieve and prepare for every possible situation. And be prepared for the fact that the job won’t always be easy.

However, as long as you come armed with positivity and a willingness to put in some hard work, volunteering abroad could be the perfect way to make a difference worldwide, not to mention kick-start your career when you get back to the UK.


Thinking about volunteering? View all available charity and voluntary positions now.