A volunteering project is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences you can possibly have. It's the best way to make a difference in the world and have the time of your life while you're at it. 

Your impact will go far beyond chopping coconuts for animals or teaching underprivileged kids how to kick a football, and, you’ll see the country in the ‘raw’ and really get to experience and see things that the average ‘tourist’ doesn’t.

It's not just about adding another line to your resume. It’s about gaining new skills, experiences for yourself and adding value to the projects and communities you serve. You first have to make sure that you can achieve this by choosing the right project for you. So we've come up with the questions to ask before volunteering, to figure out the kind of work that will fit you best before you even start your search!

The Basics

How much time do I have?

Although you might love nothing more than to spend the next year of your life in Tanzania aiding the local communities, your precious annual leave window simply isn’t going to allow it.

Projects can run from anywhere between several days to several months so being realistic and picking something that will allow you to really get involved in your timeframe is ideal.

So you can be proud of the work you’ve done when it comes time to leave. It’s also important to consider how many hours per day, per week, or per month you have to dedicate to your volunteer experience.

Where do I want to go?

It's always a swell idea to research a destination before you go there, that way you have some idea of the culture and customs when you arrive. Before you decide on a volunteer opportunity, it’s best to explore what’s going on in the country where the opportunity is located.

Check the news and recent political changes, review traveller forums and make a list a risks and dangers to see what’s avoidable in your travels, and if you’ll be comfortable in that type of environment.

Remember that volunteer programs are often based in developing countries so it may be nothing like the comfort of home - but it’s all part of the experience!

What do I want to do?

Next, you have to decide what kind of project you’re interested in, and frankly, the opportunities are endless. The best way to decide is to consider what you’d feel most confident about doing: are you outdoorsy and want to preserve the natural world we live in? Or are you a people person that would thrive meeting the locals and aiding community development? Or would you adore working with our animal friends and protecting wildlife?

Community projects are good for volunteers wanting to gain a more global perspective and improve their language skills, whereas a nature project is perfect for someone wishing to dive into the academic side of conservation. Sea turtles don’t run on your clock, so will you relish the early morning wake up calls in Costa Rica?

Or would teaching music and arts in an after school care program for the local kids in South Africa be more your thing? What kind of project will help you have the most meaningful experience? These are all things to consider before you decide.

What are my skills?

Once you’ve found a project that you’re passionate about, you need to make sure it aligns well with your existing skills and experience. That way you can bring your existing skills to the table while you learn new ones, to maximize your impact.

If you’ve never picked up a hammer in your life then perhaps helping local farmers build walls in Namibia isn’t for you. If you’re a nurse-to-be then real world experience shadowing doctors and nurses in Zanzibar may best suit your passions and allow you to contribute most effectively. Or if you’re an animal lover, you can help protect sloths and other wildlife in Costa Rica or join efforts to help the stray dog population in Thailand.

Will my volunteer program provide support in country?

Do they have a local office? Who should I contact in case of an emergency? Do I have to find my own accommodation and transfers? And what about food? All reputable organisations will have the answers to these questions, as well as plans in place to handle any issues that could arise.

Related: Why You Should Always Pay to Volunteer Abroad

Here at Global we provide our volunteers with plenty of useful information before and during their trip, including pre-arrival support, orientation when you arrive and cultural activities to get you comfortable in your new surroundings. We have a local team of experts to show you the ropes and support you throughout your journey, as well as a 24/7 Global Emergency Line to help with any hiccups along the way.

We're passionate about volunteering and making sure you see the world in a meaningful way, so whether you travel through us or someone else, be sure you’ve answered these questions first to get the most out of your experience.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Ethical Tourism For Animal Lovers

If you’re excited to make your travel dreams a reality and start an incredible adventure, all you need to do is get in touch with one of our Work & Travel Experts by clicking the red button to check out all of our meaningful overseas volunteering experiences.

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