– try to offer yourself ! Maybe here you will face your biggest problem, because volunteering abroad is usually not cheap but I have some suggestions to do it. There are 10 important points you need to think.
1. TICKET FEES
As far as I remember I paid around 1200 euro for my tickets but I bought them at the last moment. Later I found tickets for my sister which cost about 600 euro, so it always depends.
If you search in advance you will always find tickets that are not that expensive, especially if you have time for planning your trip.
My advice is that it is a lot better to buytickets directly from the airline company you will be using. This way you will avoid additional fees of various travel companies.
2. VISA AND PASSPORT FEES (if required)
Before going anywhere you have to check if you need a visa or passport for your stay. After that you have to check the website of the embassy of the country you are going to. There you will find the fees and the exact mode of applying. In my case(I am native bulgarian), for some countries that I want to apply they do not have an Embassy which represent them in Bulgaria. So to get a visa is more difficult, because I have to go to another coutry to make it.
Think about your health. If you are making a decision for volunteering abroad you need to check about the required and recommended vaccines.
As a European citizen I didn’t have any required vaccines for India but at many websites I found out that is better if I do at least vaccinate against hepatitis and typhoid.
For the hepatitis the first dose (2 weeks before departure) will defend 6-18 months. The second introduces a half year – it creates immunity against hepatitis A for 15-20 years. There are many forums that will provide you an information.
Many organizations ask for fees, which usually cover your stay and provide for your daily meals. As a person who is doing this kind of work for 7 years now I find that inappropriate, because most of the organizations declare that they use the money you are giving for your stay mostly to the cause you are working for, but they have support for their work from the local government. The owners of these organizations are well paid and they use a percentage of the donations to pay for their work (which I think is fair and reasonable). A part from that if you want to “donate” some money, it is great, but I think a donation schould be based on a free will, not somebody asking for it and making it obligatory.
So in my opinion even if they do not cover your food, at least they should cover for your stay. In relation to this I will tell you about a paradox I experienced. While working in India I had to pay for the guesthouse I was staying at (which was owned by the leader of the organization I was teaching for), and it cost me more than the hotel to which I later moved. In addition some hotel owners in India offered me a free stay at their hotelfor a month or two, only because I was helping “their kids”.
In my opinion this is something you need to propose yourself. If you are serious and skilled in the voluntary job you chose, and you want to volunteer to help and for real support, ask the organization to cover your stay (not including the food of course). Even if it is not at their guesthouse, surely they can help you find a place to sleep at some other people that have a will to help in their town or village. Don’t accept “no” for an answer.
While searching for volunteering jobs abroad I found many organizations that are asking literally for a thousand or two dollars , only for one month and only for the stay, which I find ridiculous. This kind of “volunteering” abroad has most likely turned into having a fancy excursion and exotic safari abroad coupled with some nice pictures with some orphans for the Facebook account. So if you like my work, I advise you to be serious and dedicate yourself for at least one month. Even a month is a much too short period, because if in a place you have no previous experience of, you will need to allow for at least a week for the cultural shock you are going toexperience); do not go for a two week exotic vacation.
5. FEES BY THE ORGANIZATION
As I said previously I find these ridiculous, but I think you will be able to cover yourself for your food and all the things you usually need in your day to day life (laundry services for example)
6. POCKET MONEY
You need to prepare some additional expenses, if you are going to buy extra food, souvenirs, for travel expenses, even just for travel in town (bus fares for example). Most likely you will need some “extra” money for unexpected expenses. You must be always prepared. And as my father always tells me “In the winter never go for a journey without money, in the summer never go without a warm jacket”
7. HOW TO PUT MY LIFE IN A SUITCASE, clothes for a moth or two..
Here comes an important question, what do I need to take with me when going abroad.
Not surprisingly I couldn’t find in India the same toothpaste I am using in Italy. Same thing happened about my perfume. So if you have some “special products” that you are using, you should be prepared and buy them from your own country. But I think it’s nice to go out of your comfort zone, and try new, local things, that may be even better than the ones you were using your whole life.
You don’t need many clothes (as far as you are there for voluntary experience) but make sure you choose the right ones. For example in India it is inappropriate if a woman is showing her legs or even her shoulders in public (so short pants are not an option). So if you want to respect the local culture you, google for some tips and advices what to bring and also about the weather during your stay.
8. CULTURAL SHOCK
Even if you are a very open minded person you are likely going to have it,so I advise you to read and learn a little bit about the local culture. This is important even in order just to stay respectful. There is a website that I truly like- http://www.lonelyplanet.com. It is a website for travelers and it is full of various information which is surely going to help you.
For example In Europe it is normal for women to shake hands with men when greeting or introducing. In India, however, it is considered indecent and women do not shake hands, but bow gently with hands folded under the chin in a prayer position.
9. NO NOSTALGIC ISSUES, be prepared
Yes, I know you will miss your friend, family, boyfriend/girlfriend, your pet, and your town.
We always miss a lot of things in our life, but while volunteering abroad you have to be strong and fight for the cause, there are enough weak people in the World, don’t you agree? Make a difference – be different. Also nowadays there are many cheap ways for keeping in contact with the people you love. Use your Skype, phone, Internet, but don’t stick to them all the time, because you might be losing some of the best moments of your life while having your voluntary experience!
10. KEEP CALM AND DO YOUR JOB in the best possible way
While working abroad I have one major rule – “My bad day is not their bad day”.
No matter what is happening in your life you need to be always in a full capacity to do your work. Always be positive, smile and do your job in the best possible way! You are there to help just do it. No excuses!
I hope this article is going to be helpful in your future voluntary experience. All the information I shared here is my personal point of view, based on my own experience, so it couldn’t be “right” or “wrong”. If you have some questions I would kindly ask you to write your comments in the Blog under the article (not in a personal message), in order that everyone will be able to see it, and we can be more helpful for everyone.
We can create a little “forum” and I would be very happy if people with previous experience share their opinion too.
Thank you for helping! I wish you all to be fortunate enough to find the volunteer experience that suits you the most! Good luck!!
Peace and love