Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
Thinking about taking part in a international volunteer opportunity? Here are some things to consider before you go, to help ensure you have a safe and successful volunteer experience.
Before You Go
Do your homework
- Researched how previous volunteers rated their experience? Are there credible complaints about the organization you are considering joining?
- Made sure the sponsoring organization thoroughly checks out the in-country organization before entering into partnership with them, and personally inspects the in-country project site, documenting each visit?
- Read up on your intended destination?
- Checked out health and disease conditions at your intended destination?
Does the international volunteer organization have:
- Risk assessment procedure, global risk management plan, and country-specific emergency response plans
- Pre-departure security briefings
- 24/7 office support in case of an emergency
- First aid-qualified project staff
- Emergency evacuation plan
- Orientation to educate volunteers on policies, destination country, and safety concerns
- In-country medical insurance, medical evacuation insurance, pre-trip physicals, and inoculations
- Handbooks or guides that include relevant historical, cultural, language, and environmental information
- Enrollment of all volunteers in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, to help ensure the U.S. embassy in your destination country can help you in case of emergency
While You’re There
In-country Volunteer Support
Make sure the international volunteer organization:
- Works directly with host nation project leaders who speak local languages and know the location of nearby police stations and hospitals
- Has 24-hour local office support
Learn About Your Destination
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.