Work Tips for Volunteers

When you start to tell people that you are going to travel abroad to volunteer, you are going to get tons of advice. Most of it will be unsolicited, some of it will be helpful, some will be strange, and all will be well-intentioned. But how do you know which advice to take, and which to ignore? And what if people give you conflicting information?

The best place to start if you are looking for tips for your volunteer experience abroad is former volunteers. Most organizations keep networks of former volunteers who they can call upon to share their own stories and offer advice to people like you! And in most cases there are only a few keystrokes away. If there isn’t already a system set-up to contact former volunteers, reach out directly to program administrators and ask to be put in touch. Former volunteers will be able to answer most (if not all) of your questions, and will even let you know what questions you didn’t even think to ask!

Top Tips for Volunteering Abroad

If you’re looking for more general tips for how to make your volunteer overseas experience a success, look no further. Below are the top tips that we’ve compiled for people taking a volunteer trip abroad:

Communicate!: Showing up on your first day of a any new job is daunting; you have brand new faces, names and instructions to remember.

For an international volunteer is compounded by the language barrier.

One mistake that new volunteers often make is staying quiet and not asking questions because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. In order to be truly effective, and a valuable part of the team, you will have to communicate with your co-workers. And remember: It will get easier.

Kids are very perceptive: When working with children, never underestimate their ability to read what you are feeling or thinking. Most of the children that you will work with as a volunteer will be from impoverished and/or broken homes, and have faced tough situations from a very young age. As a new person in their lives, always remember that kids generally just want to giggle and laugh and have fun…and you are the very person to make that happen.

Teamwork works: Whatever your particular skills or expertise, the greatest resource you can bring to a non-profit is the ability to work within part of their team. Your host organization will value your adaptability, and together you can accomplish much more than alone.

Celebrate the little victories: Many volunteers come into an experience, hoping to change the world from their first day. While this is a wonderful, idealistic attitude, the reality is that social change, environmental conservation, and healthcare reform are slow processes. Rather than measure your experience on the global scale, take some delight in the day to day; making a child laugh, beautifying a km of road, delivering food to a hungry family and nursing a sick turtle back to health are all reasons to be proud of your work.

Other Places to Find Volunteer Abroad Tips

  • Transitions Abroad is one of the best travel abroad websites out there, and they are especially great at incorporating first-hand travel and volunteer experiences from a variety of regions and interest areas. Articles are constantly updated, and they often commission academics and experts to weigh-on on hot topics in the volunteer abroad world.
  • Volunteerlogue also maintains quite a few forums, and posts blogs about volunteer and travel abroad experiences.
  • The Lonely Planet forums are also fairly active, and there are many reviews of volunteer organizations, as well as some little-know information about organizations needing volunteers off the beaten path.

Interested in volunteer jobs overseas but don’t have a ton of money to spend? Read on for information about free and low-cost volunteer jobs!

Did you Know? Online forums are a great place to find out little-known information and tips for overseas volunteering.

Quick Summary:

  • Everyone has something to share about volunteering and travel abroad; to find the right tips for you, you just have to figure out how to ask the right questions.
  • The best volunteer abroad tips have to do with open communication and flexibility.
  • Former volunteers are the best source of overseas volunteering tips, and most organizations keep networks of former volunteers to answer questions from people like you.


Sign up for our newsletter!