Sunday, February 27, 2011
“One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.” ~Malayan Proverb. Volunteering is a selfless act and by definition it means the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services. It’s a service that improves the quality of life for one person or the community in general. While volunteering there are few perks that come with it and little financial compensation. With some organizations the volunteers are given a weekly stipend to cover the costs of doing the volunteer work. When the volunteer decides to go abroad there are no stipends and it is more expensive for them to do their work. Their main expenses are flight fees, accommodation, meals and sometimes they pay an organization to plan and organize their volunteer work. It is hard to justify the expense of volunteering abroad but there are some financial benefits rather than altruistic benefits of volunteering abroad. Here are some benefits of volunteering:
When planning to travel in a country for a long period of time, it is hard to find affordable options. The main expenses of travelling are accommodation and meals. The cost of living in hostels, hotels, and dorm rooms, may eventually become expensive. Although there are ways of staying in a country for free like through couch surfing and exchange programs, volunteering abroad is the most cost effective way of living abroad. When the volunteer is working abroad, meals and accommodation are normally taken care of. Some organizations like the Peace Corps Volunteers pay their volunteers some allowance for meals and accommodation. Using organizations like these the volunteer will be able to travel more and longer in various countries. This way they get to save money on travelling expenses.
When a volunteer uses a nonprofit or not for profit volunteer travel service the price of volunteering abroad is tax deductible. This mostly applies to American Citizens who volunteer abroad with such an organization. All of the program fees are deductible for federal income tax purposes. Charitable donations can reduce the taxable income and lower the tax bill of the person who has made the donation – including sponsors if the volunteers are fundraising. If the volunteers itemize deductions on their returns, they may be able to take income tax deductions for a gift to a qualified charitable organization. The actual cost of their donation is therefore reduced through their savings on their taxes. The volunteers’ donation to a qualified charity is deductible in the same year it is made. The contribution is considered paid when the volunteer puts the check in the mail, or when it is charged in their credit cards. Most organizations qualify for a charitable contribution deduction but some do not hence the volunteer should check with 501(c) 3 Corporation.
For volunteers who are still in school, college and universities they, have a better chance of employment than their colleagues who have not volunteered abroad. Also the volunteers who are already working have a better chance to be promoted. Many employers and schools encourage people to volunteer, or study abroad. When a volunteer goes abroad, they learn a lot and they mature as individuals. After their work abroad, many volunteers’ minds are open to the realities that affect the world. They appreciate how to work with little resources and how to be more innovative. Another quality that volunteers get from working abroad is they learn how to think differently and to solve problems in a unique way. As a result many employers value such qualities. The volunteers who have gone abroad are able to command a better salary. It is also easier for volunteers to work for multinationals like United Nations, because of their experience living in another country.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~Oscar Wilde. Volunteers who are working abroad are entitled rights and responsibilities. Irrespective of the type of volunteer work being done, the volunteers have rights that should be followed. These rights are there to protect the volunteer and to make sure they are not being taken advantage off. These rights and responsibilities protect both the organization and the volunteers who are abroad and also for smooth running of the volunteer work.
Here are the international volunteer rights:
• To work in a healthy and safe environment
• To be interviewed and employed in accordance with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation;
• To be given accurate and truthful information about the organization for which they are working in;
• To be given a copy of the organization’s volunteer policy and any other policy that affects the volunteer’s work;
• Not to fill a position previously held by a paid worker;
• To have a job description and agreed working hours;
• To have access to a grievance procedure;
• To be provided with training and orientation to the organization;
• To be heard - to feel free to make suggestions, to have a part in planning.
• To new opportunities and a variety of experiences - through advancement or transfer, or through special assignment.
• To be kept informed through departments, attendance at staff meetings, memoranda, etc. about what is going on in the organization.
• To expect that the volunteer’s time will not be wasted by lack of planning, coordination or cooperation within the organization.
• To know whether the volunteer’s work is effective and how it can be improved: to have a chance to increase understanding of the volunteer, others and community.
• Do meaningful and satisfying work;
• Be seen as belonging, through inclusion at meetings, social functions, etc.
• Be seen as a person or a co worker and to be supported in the volunteer’s role;
• Have choices and feel comfortable about saying "no";
• Not be exploited;
• Be consulted on matters that directly or indirectly affect the volunteer and the work
• Receive recognition for the volunteer’s contribution
• Have the volunteer’s personal information be kept confidential
• To have the volunteer’s service hours documented (certificate or letter) upon request.
• To a suitable assignment--with consideration for personal preference, temperament, life experience, education and employment background
The volunteers’ responsibilities are:
• To be reliable, trustworthy and punctual
• To respect the rights of people the volunteer works with
• To have a non-judgmental approach
• To carry out the specified job description
• To give feedback (i.e. participate in evaluations when asked), accountable and accept feedback
• To be committed to the program
• To avoid overextending themselves
• To acknowledge decisions made by the staff or the organization
• To address areas of conflict with the appropriate staff member or volunteer coordinator
• To ask for support when it is needed
• To be open and honest with the organization about the volunteer’s expectations and abilities.
• To maintain confidentiality and privacy with regards to agency information, clients, and personnel.
• To learn from the community service experience.
• To be open and honest about their motivations and goals.
• To understand what a job requires before accepting it.
• To accept guidance and supervision from the person in charge of volunteers.
• To participate in any training offered by the organization.
• To notify the coordinator as soon as possible if they are unable to attend a training session or carry out their assigned duties.
• To adhere to all station rules, policies and procedures pertaining to his or her volunteer commitments.
• To decline work that is not acceptable to them; maintain an open mind with regard to other people's standards and values
Sunday, February 20, 2011
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” ~Elizabeth Andrew. There are so many organizations out there that a volunteer can choose to use. It sometimes gets hard to choose which organization to use and to find reviews about the organization the volunteer has chosen. Although, there are websites which review and rate organizations depending on their clients experience. Some of the websites are abroad review and review centre, they get views from past volunteers and publish them on their site. This information is useful to find how the organization treats its clients. Here are some of the reviews from the websites:
Volunteer Capital Centre
I was a bit skeptical about using Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC) as I was unsure what goes on while you are abroad. But when I arrived in the country I was welcomed with so much love and care. They were waiting at the airport and took to me to a wonderful homestay. I immediately bonded with all the family members and they made me feel so welcomed. I was taken to my volunteer project and had the best time of my life. I worked in a community development program and it was hard and fun at the same time. I highly recommend this organization to anyone and I can’t wait to go back.
Volunteer HQ review
I Spent 3 weeks working with IVHQ in Nairobi. Best experience of my life and still upset at having left over 4 weeks later. The country and children I worked with really tugs at the heart strings. Already planning my next trip back there in 2012 hopefully. Had an amazing host family with grace and her two little ones and James from Fadhili ensured we were always happy. Cannot speak highly enough of the Kenyan people. Highly recommend as a destination.
Global Crossroad review
We (me and my wife) undertook a 3-Week Volunteer program (teaching) at an Orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania. This was our first such initiative in global volunteerism. From the very beginning Global Crossroads (Mr. Mohan) guided us in selecting the program, making local arrangements (and providing specific/ detailed info of Dos and Don’ts), calling the host Family, and list goes on. All the arrangements were as outlined and it turned out to be one of the life-time experiences (which we share with everyone and the listeners are surprised at our enthusiasm for such a positive view considering our age and food restrictions - Strict Vegetarian). We will be happy to provide/ e-mail correspondence with anyone who may have Qs. We are now ready to plan for next exotic country in 2013.
I think this organization probably used to be good. There was a change of management 6 months ago and since then the place has fallen apart. Volunteers get barely any support, the management team is unacceptably rude, and some placement hosts have accused Ikando of not paying up the promised donations. During my recent placement I saw several volunteers cut short their time with Ikando and return home early. I would recommend you find another organization to volunteer with.
Global vision International review
My time spent in the small hill tribe village of Huay Pakoot was among the most memorable experiences I have had up to date. Not only did the GVI staff offer help and guidance, but they also all exhibit the same passion and motivation that I aspire to emulate. I cannot emphasize enough how important the Thai Elephant project and the Elephant Vet Aid Outpost (EVAO) are in the fight for saving the critically endangered Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) from the brink of extinction. The accommodation in Huay Pakoot is basic at best, BUT it is equalized by the hospitality provided by your home stay families, who cook and cater three meals a day for each volunteer. I am a vegetarian and had no dramas in having my home stay meet my dietary requirements. In saying that, the food that the locals cook is AMAZING! All produce is grown and harvested in the local area, so if you like fresh food, Huay Pakoot is the place to be.
A broad view review
Thanks again for making this happen for us, it was a life changing trip and hopefully the first of many volunteer abroad trips for me personally. I wouldn't hesitate to use A Broader View again, so I'm sure you'll be hearing from me in the future to help me coordinate another journey.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
“It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference.” ~Tom Brokaw
This article/blog is dedicated to past international volunteers who have gone abroad. It is a testament to their work in various third world countries. It is also a brief glimpse of their lives while they were working, their experiences, good or bad; disappointments; living conditions; the country they are in; advice to future or potential volunteers and the view of the volunteering. The testimonials are from volunteers who worked for a week to those who have worked for years. The testimonies have been edited to fit the articles/ blog. Here are the testimonies:
Sandra Rzeszutko -USA
Kenya is a wonderful country; I enjoyed the weather immensely and was impressed with the beautiful scenery and wonderful people. My host family was perfect, I grew to care for them all very deeply and hope to see them again someday. Culturally, I found the small town I lived in to be lacking in modern technology such as running water (we used a well) and that few people had refrigerators. I must confess I had doubts about being able to cope, but within 24 hours I was totally comfortable, due mostly to my host family and the town residents. Everyone was friendly and I was greeted by all. Despite originally visiting Kenya for wildlife, I must say I was most impressed with the people. They are extremely hard working, very proud and considerate of others. I was humbled by how few amenities they had yet they live contented in what I considered to be hardship. I learned to love seeing simple things like women hand washing clothes, carrying babies on their back and old men gathered for a game of checkers.
Daniel Dickerson – USA
The people of Ghana are much more friendly and welcoming than I expected. During my stay I did not experience a single situation where I was made to feel uncomfortable. The gracious nature of the people here appears to the result of or at least enhanced by the active participation by most people in church programs. Many schools are responsible by the Methodist, Presbyterian or Catholic Church. One of my highlights during our stay in Ghana was attending a local church and being welcomed by the entire congregation. The country itself is from ocean to the mountains and throughout the lush vegetation. The weather is hot but not intolerable, especially in the mountain. Our host family truly made us feels as if we were part of their family. They took care of us well.
Jessica De Vos – Australian
The local staff (South Africa) was very helpful. The project was different to what I expected but then I grew to know the kids more and what type of lives they live then I began enjoying it and had the feeling I was helping more. I think the experience was worthwhile and I enjoyed every minute of it. Meeting people from different cultures is one of the perks, lifestyles, fitting in with local life, spending time with a different family, learning about different societies, teaching and playing and loving the children. This program I would agree is very worth the money and is an excellent experience to open my mind and learn about different people and cultures. Thanks for all your help throughout the past months
Katherine Potter – United kingdom
“My most memorable experience was sitting in the lighthouse bar on the Bund, overlooking the Pudong skyline whilst practicing some of the Mandarin that I had learnt on my placement. It made me really what an amazing place Shanghai is and how much I had learnt and experienced in the 2 months that I was there.”
Corey Stilts - Russia
Everything about Costa Rica was a phenomenal adventure — the sights, the wildlife, the entire country. Even more amazing than that, however, were the times I spent with the children — Caesar, Jose, Hannah, they all brightened my day and made each day I was in Costa Rica special.
Sarah, New Zealand
I still think of my Peru experience daily, and I have felt even more connected to my friends in Ayacucho and Lima as I have been reading back through my journal from last summer. My 8 weeks in Peru still proves to be one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and I am forever grateful to the volunteer company for giving me that opportunity. I have jumped at every chance to share my story and want you to continue putting people in touch with me.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
“Distance doesn't matter if you really love the person, what matters most is your honesty and trust for that relationship to work out” - Trish. The second international holiday celebrated after New Year is Valentine’s Day. History has it that Valentine’s Day came from St. Valentine a priest who lived around 270 AD in Rome and he attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II who ruled during this time. He believed that marriage made the men weak. So he issued an edict forbidding marriage to assure quality soldiers. Although it was forbidden, St. Valentine being a bishop, held secret marriage ceremonies of soldiers and young men. This was in opposition to Claudius II who had prohibited it leading to his execution. Before St. Valentine was executed he wrote a letter to a daughter of his jailer with whom he had a deep friendship. In his letter he signed: “from your valentine.” When a volunteer goes abroad for a while it means they will be cut off from their loved ones for a period of time putting a strain on their relationship. Or when they are abroad they could fall in love with one of the local people and after their work is done will have to leave. The volunteers will be forced into a long distant relationship. Here are a couple of tips to help your relationships survive when you are abroad:
The volunteer and their partner should sit down and talk about the upcoming adventure. They have a meeting and define their relationships. They should define if they just have fun, if they are serious and if they are ready to go to the next level to engagements or marriage. For those who are already engaged or married should discuss the effect of the long distance will have on their marriage. One of the strains of the relationships will be lack of intimacy, no hugging or kissing or physical contact. Being miles away from each other compounds the problems that they could be having while they are together. Also while they are away they should promise to remain faithful to each other during the duration of the volunteer abroad work.
Due to technology the world has been made smaller and smaller. There are numerous ways to stay in touch with each other. The various ways of communications are through, calls, internet calls, text messages and the use of social media (facebook and twitter). These are great ways to communicate and they are also mostly inexpensive. In a relationship, quality and quantity communication is very important and it ought to be frequent. Written communication should be intimate and extensive to give the other partner a good picture of what the other is feeling. Although there could be nothing new to talk about just staying on the line while hearing the other person breathe does wonders. Due to the different time zones that the volunteers and partners are in they will have to schedule when to talk. They could talk once a day, three times a week or once a week, depending on the schedules.
If the volunteer is planning to go abroad for a long period of time like six months to three years, then they will have to schedule to meet with their partners. Extended absence could lead to the death of the relationship. They could organize to see each other after every two or three months. Visiting each other shows that you still care. The volunteer and partner could both go to a mutually exclusive place and enjoy each other’s company. It is said real connections are made through touching, feeling and smelling and has strong ties to memory; it will be easier to keep the relationship going if they see each other at some point. When the couple is away from each they could still schedule to do some things together, for example even though they are separated by distance they could still watch movies together, and listen to the same songs
The biggest killer of all relationships is the opinion of others. When the volunteers friends weigh in their opinions about the relationship they will often be negative. This negativity adds more strain in the relationship and the couple will lose faith that they can keep the long distant relationship. They could ask for advice from other people but be objective on taking the advice.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.” ~William Shakespeare. In the last few weeks, there have been violent protests in different countries. The protests have been mainly political. The first was the failed elections in Ivory Coast, followed by violence in Haiti, Tunisia, Egypt and it is spreading through to some of the Arab nations. Apart from these manmade disasters, there are natural ones like the floods in Australia, Brazil and disease out breaks in parts of Africa. Being in such situations the safety and well being of volunteers are under threat. Due to the unrest many countries that are having these problems block the internet, instigate media black outs and impose curfews. In these cases, the volunteers who are abroad should know what emergency procedures on how to evacuate from the country. In the haste and confusion the volunteers should do the following:
While the volunteer is in the host country, they should know the location of their country embassies are and phone numbers. If the volunteer is going to stay for a long period of time they should register with the embassies in order for their governments to know how many of their citizens are touring and travelling. In the event of a natural disaster, and political unrest the volunteers should contact their respective embassies. The embassies will be able to document them, and help them out with their evacuation procedures. They will be there to give advice to the volunteer, and help with travel documents just in case the volunteer has lost their passports.
In most cases, getting information will be difficult. Most governments when they are having such problems they block internet access, ban live television, and sometimes prevent any communication from going through. Calling and texting might also be a problem due to the current problems. Also natural disasters cut out power lines limiting communication. When this happens the volunteer should try to keep abreast with the little information that is available. They should listen to radios, watch television, read newspapers and call home to find out what is going on. With the little information the volunteers have, they will be able to make better decisions. To get news about what is going on the ground they should call home and find out how the situation looks.
With a lot of confusion going on, there is little time to prepare and plan. At this time, things will be done hurriedly and few opportunities open up to leave the country may come and go quickly. The volunteer should be prepared for this. They should have all their things packed and be ready to leave in the next five minutes. It is advisable at these times for the volunteers to carry their passport and travel documents with them all the time. When they are packing they should make sure they have their essentials with them, leaving things they might not need behind. This will make movement much easier. Departing immediately is not easy, especially for those volunteers who have kids but it will be essential for them to be safe.
Unfortunately due to the political problems, many airlines which were scheduled to fly to the country normally cancel their flights. This is a big problem as many people will be trying to get away from the country. This means while you are at the airport there will be a lot of confusion, shoving and other disgruntled passengers. Many governments will provides charter flights to their citizens to a transit location. Recently when travelers were leaving Egypt, Britain, United States, China and many other countries were providing charter planes to their citizens. The governments asked their nationals to pay the fare and which is equivalent to the commercial rates. The citizens are then flown to a nearby country where they are free to leave on their by their own means.
In the event of natural disasters and the volunteers find themselves cut off from the world; they should stay patiently at their location. In the case of flooding and the roads are completely cut off, the volunteers will have no choice but to wait to be rescued. They will have to make due with the little resources they have at their disposal. There are bound to be rescue operations done when the conditions stop being severe. Help will be on the way and the volunteers will be forced to weather the storm
Sunday, February 6, 2011
“Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~Author Unknown. Since the beginning of this year, there have been political and natural problems in a number of countries. The problems have been spread throughout the globe. First there was unrest in Ivory Coast due to the elections they had, second were the floods in Australia and Brazil and lately there has been unrest in the Arab nations (Tunisia, Egypt and Lebanon). Some of these situations are predictable for example there is bound to be trouble when travelling to a third world country during an election year. It is easy to foresee problems in such scenarios, but there some which take the whole world by surprise. A good example is what is going on in the Arab world where they are fighting for democracy and also the natural disasters in Australia where few knew the floods would bring so much trouble. As a volunteer in a foreign country these problems are compounded in that; the country is no longer safe; communication in to and out of the country could be halted, the internet could be blocked; media black outs and a curfew could be imposed in the said country. When choosing the country to go to care has to be taken to avoid being in such a situation. A couple of tips to help you choosing a country to volunteer in
Travel bans and advisory
Every government tries to protect its citizens by giving out travel advice on countries. In each government there is a foreign affairs arm that looks into what is going on in the world. They get updates from every part of the world. They monitor what goes on in every country and when there is a hint of problems they advice their citizens. On their publications and announcements, they warn their citizens on which countries to avoid. For example there is Know Before You Go campaign, which is from England, Canada has Foreign affairs and International Trade and the USA has Bureau of Consular Affairs. They all have alerts on certain countries and they each have a different valuation of the risk in the countries. Currently there is a general ban on travelling to countries in the red sea region. When picking a country to go to, it is advisable to visit the government’s website to see how safe the country you are going to go to is.
Reading and watching news of a country is the best way to be informed. In this day and age there are a lot of sources of News. There is the internet, newspapers, magazines; and televisions all these are sources of News and current events. Although the media channels could be exaggerating what is going on the ground, they are the one of the best sources of information. Keeping abreast with current news of the country will help you to pick the best country to go to. In the news the volunteers will learn about the major things that are happening to the country that they will be going to.
The volunteers who are picking a country which could have security risks, they should have a look at the country profiles. Every country has been listed and there is a measurement to see which country is the safest to travel in. The country profiles are regularly updated and give a sense of how safe the country. The country profiles describe headline facts and figures about the population, capital city, and currency. Then briefly outline the geography and recent history, current politics and economic trends
The volunteers who choose to use volunteer travel organizations are better placed to get information on a country. The volunteer travel organizations have their employees on the ground and they have first hand information on what is going on. With this information they can help to advice you which countries are safe to go to. They will have first hand information from the ground and will inform the volunteers accordingly. The best part of using travel organizations is that in case of an emergency while the volunteer is abroad is that they have contingency plans. They will help you get out of a tricky situation.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
“Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless.” ~Sherry Anderson. In spite of the fact that volunteering means giving up time and energy to help someone else in need volunteering abroad is not free. Wherever you want to go, from helping the flood victims in Australia, Brazil and the earthquake victims of Haiti, there is always a price to pay to volunteer abroad. Many volunteers work with small community based organizations or not for profit organizations and the organizations don’t have the resources to pay for hosting and feeding them. Volunteers don’t pay to do their volunteer work abroad. They pay for the costs they will incur while they are abroad. There are basic costs that everyone has to pay for example air fare, Visa, travel insurance, and vaccinations. In addition to these costs there are other expenses, like; accommodation, meals, and transportation within the country. When using a volunteer service organization, or travelling independently these factors must be put into consideration. Here are a couple of more things that are included in the cost of volunteering abroad:
The period of time that you volunteer in a foreign country determines the cost. Wherever any volunteers go abroad they are bound to pay for food and accommodation for the length of their stay. Even if they leave their home town for a town nearby, they are bound to pay for these two expenses. Food and accommodation depend on the length of stay. As an independent traveler, the cost of living will be calculated per day. For those who will stay in a hostel or a hotel they have to calculate the rent, food and transport. Those who will volunteer with travel companies will be charged per week. The program fees are dependent on the number of weeks they will spend in the country. Their fees will be directed into paying accommodation, food and sometimes transport. The price varies depending on the volunteer travel they choose to use. They can go from between $ 99 to $ 1000 per week.
The cost of volunteering can be affected by the type of volunteer programs s/he chooses to work in. Some programs don’t cost too much as there is minimal risk involved and resources needed. Volunteer programs like teaching, orphanage work and community service do not require many resources and the volunteers can improvise with what they have. Other programs are more costly because the volunteers are at considerable risk, need more resources and positions are limited. Examples of such programs are wild life, marine conservation and some sports programs. In wildlife programs, they will be working with wild animals and they need to be protected while they are doing their work, this means that they have to be assigned game rangers to assist and protect them while in the field. In marine conservation programs the volunteers will be required to take scuba lessons and to have the scuba equipment. These drive up the cost of volunteering.
This is mainly for the volunteers who choose to use a volunteer service company. While the volunteer is in another country they could require somebody to take care of everything else, leaving them to focus on volunteer work. They would require somebody to be there just in case there is a problem and to solve it for them. The price that the volunteer travel organization charges, determines the amount of support the volunteer will get while they are in the host countries. The organizations that have high fees, charge for the following: training and orientation while in the volunteer’s home and host country; language training; 24/7 support and backup; weekend excursions; emergency precautions; and in some cases a college credit. Those that have lower fees don’t skimp on these services but provide them in a limited capacity.
These are out of pocket expenses that the volunteer will incur. These include buying amenities that the volunteer would require to have while s/he is volunteering abroad for example a bottle of water, snacks, and curios. In some occasions the volunteer would want to go for a local tour that is not included in the volunteer package.