Volunteer Capital Centre (VCC)

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Volunteer abroad Christmas gifts

The holiday season is upon us yet again. It’s the season to be merry and jolly. The only time in the year where festive lights are put all over home. The season for drinking eggnog, hanging mistletoes and playing Santa Claus. Christmas is the biggest holiday celebrated in most parts of the world. Christmas means family gathering together, singing and listening to Christmas carols and gift giving. Giving and receiving gifts is the best part of Christmas. Giving gifts to family members is easy. The tricky part is giving gifts to those who are going abroad to volunteer, backpack, work and study. This is because they will need something that is small enough to fit in their bags, and useful to use while they are abroad. Here are a couple of gift ideas to give someone who is going to volunteer abroad;


Every long term traveler needs a backpack. Volunteers who are abroad will require a good backpack for their journey to the country and to the project location. A backpack should be comfy, stylish enough, and very sturdy. Other backpack qualities are roomy, ergonomic, air conditioned, well padded, water resistant, should have laptop ports, sound ports, and a waist strap. The well known backpack brands are Eagle Creek, Karrimor, Macpac, The North Face, Osprey, and White Mountain. Cheap backpacks are normally faulty and won’t do any good. The average price of a backpack goes for between $ 150 and $ 200.

Travel Shoes and socks

The volunteers will need a good pair of shoes and socks during their work abroad. The right pair of shoes will carry the volunteer further, faster and safer. The pair of shoes should have the following qualities: they should be comfy, durable, waterproof, not too heavy, good treads, lace hooks and soft soles. Apart from shoes the volunteer should have a pair of flip flops for going to the shower, bathrooms and hot days. A long with a good pair of shoes, they need good quality pairs of socks. The socks should be warm, cushy, cool and comfy. Popular shoe brands are Asolo, Danner, Garmont, and Merrel. The price of shoes varies greatly depending on various attributes and brands.

Hand Held devices

These are great for travelling, especially during long flights, layovers and idle moments. These are also great for those hours doing nothing. There are many devices that are available to buy for example iPod, iPad, gaming devices (PSP, Nintendo DS), mp3 players, and kindles. When choosing the best device to buy consider: the battery life; the storage space, practicality and price. The price of the device depends on brand, memory storage space, quality and popularity.


Books are perfect gifts for travelers. The best books will be the ones that deal with travel for example guidebooks, language books or fictional novels that will inspire the volunteer during their work. Apart from inspiration and education they could also be for entertainment. When choosing a book to buy, get a book that the volunteer loves to read. Example of books that could be bought are: Lonely planet guidebooks, the gap year book, the complete guide to the gap year, How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Abroad, and Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation. These books can be easily gotten from Amazon and EBay.


Every volunteer wants to document their journey and their adventure through photographs and videos. Getting a good camera that would last the period of their work and is of high quality. Good cameras should have: a good megapixel count, image quality, shutter speed, great LCD screens, ergonomic and style. The most common brands are cannons, Sony, Samsung, Nikkon and Kodak. The price varies with the brand and a number of other factors.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to overcome home sickness while volunteering abroad

Home sickness is defined as distress caused by separation from a specific home environment. Students who join universities and colleges or those who go abroad are affected by homesickness. As they are exposed to different environments and new people they are sometimes overcome by homesickness. Some students don’t get homesick, but there are others who are overwhelmed by the new experience. The main signs and symptoms of homesickness are: Nostalgia, grief, depression, anxiety, topophilia, adjustment disorders, withdrawal, sadness, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia. Homesickness is felt more by the people who are furthest from home for example international volunteers, international students, international workers and expats. Homesickness can strike at any moment, one week into the volunteer abroad work or a month later. It’s natural for volunteers to become homesick as they are many miles away from home and they can’t go back as soon as they want. Here are a couple of remedies to homesickness:

Keep in touch

Keeping in touch with family and old friends who are at home, is one of way of keeping homesickness at bay. The volunteers can use the following to keep in touch: emails, Skype, Facebook, Tweeter, calling and texting. Most of these resources are available in many parts of the world unless the volunteer is in remote areas. The quality of the resources varies depending on the location of the volunteer for example the speed and availability of internet. When feeling lonely and homesick the volunteer could try and communicate with those who are back at home. Talking to them will lift up the spirits of the volunteers. Finding out things that are going on at home will help the volunteer feel connected to their families. Although talking to family and friends is great it should be done to a minimum as too much communication with them will lead the volunteer to feel more homesick. Keeping in touch should be done less and less until the volunteer is used to the new place.

Carry something from home

Carrying something from home could help the volunteer overcome homesickness. Carry things that have some sentimental value and could remind the volunteer of home. The volunteer can carry developed photos, a pillow from home, perfume or cologne of a loved one, favorite movies, music, stuffed animals and an old scrapbook. Having these familiar things will make the place where the volunteer is staying more comfortable. These small mementos remind the volunteers about home and make him or her happy.

Make friends

Making new friends is a great way to get over homesickness. While the volunteer is abroad, s/he should make friends with the local people and other volunteers. As there will be other volunteers working with them, they will help to adjust to the new environment. The other volunteers will help to form a support network whereby they will help solve common problems. The volunteer will be able to talk about his or her feelings about missing home and the others will help them. The other volunteers will cheer up the homesick volunteer. Constantly meeting new people will take the volunteers mind away from home and help to embrace the new environment. Meeting new people will help to fit into the new culture. Spending time with other people cures homesickness.

Keep busy

Volunteers feel homesick the most when they are idle. When they feel homesick the volunteer should look for activities to keep their minds engaged. The volunteers should focus on the volunteer abroad work and look for ways to be more productive. They could stick to a schedule that keeps their minds occupied. When the volunteers are not working, they look for other interests and hobbies that will keep them busy. They should try to keep up with their hobbies while they are abroad. They should take this opportunity to make the most of their stay by visiting new places and finding out new experiences. The busier the volunteer is the less time s/he will be feel homesick.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Volunteer abroad travel money

Volunteers who are planning to go abroad have a lot to plan for. In their planning they will also plan for how they will be using their money. There are various ways of using money while the international volunteers are abroad. The various methods are through cash, travelers cheque, credit card, prepaid cards and local debit cards. Deciding on which form of money to use depends on a number of factors. These factors are length of stay, security, exchange rate and replacement in case they are lost or stolen. They should inform their banks that they are going abroad and that they shouldn’t cancel their credit cards while they are gone unless told otherwise. As a volunteer abroad, s/he should carry the different forms of money for safety. Here are the various forms of money that are available to volunteers:


The volunteers will need the local currency when they arrive in the country. They will need money to pay for small things as taxi fare, buses fare, trolley fares and many others. As the volunteer will be in the local country for a period of time, s/he will need to have local currency. The advantages of carry local currency are: it is easy to exchange; easy to use; available everywhere; and fluctuations in the exchange rate won’t make it more expensive. The major disadvantages of carry cash are: the volunteers can’t carry large sums of money; during conversion they can lose money due to the exchange rate; and it’s not replaceable when it’s lost. When dealing with cash, the volunteer should have money bag or an inside pocket where to hide their money. To be safe they should also not carry all their money at the same place and should have large and small denominations.

Credit cards

These are the most commonly used by travelers worldwide. Credit cards are available and are used in most countries. Cards that have Visa, MasterCard, American express and Access are accepted everywhere. There are many advantages of using Credit Cards for example: they are easy to carry; easily replaceable when stolen; accepted in most parts of the world; the volunteer can get cash advances from ATMs at a fee. The main disadvantages are: credit card fraud; sometimes they are not accepted in some hotels and institutions; there are added service fees by banks when they are used; there are interest fees included and you have notify banks when traveling abroad. The volunteer has to be careful when using credit cards, in that they should be used as few times as possible. Credit cards have hidden costs attached to them and when the volunteer goes back home, s/he will be surprised by the huge fees.

Prepaid Cards

These cards are new to the market and are gaining popularity. Prepaid cards are specifically targeted for travelers. They work the same way as travelers cheques and debit cards. Prepaid cards are preloaded with money from the volunteer’s home country. They use the standard Visa system, and can be used anywhere there is a Visa symbol. They are much safer to use than Credit cards and Debit cards. With a fixed amount in them, there is no risk in overspending and if the funds run out you can re load the funds through other credit cards. The disadvantages of these cards are: once they are lost they are hard to replace; the commissions are higher than travelers cheques and credit cards; topping up is expensive.

Travelers Cheques

Travelers cheques used to be very common but nowadays they are becoming less and less common. They are still one of the safest ways to carry money as they are not stolen and are easily replaceable. To use a travelers cheque, the volunteer’s signature is needed. Most of them are issued by American express and can be used in most banks and post banks. They can be replaced anywhere if they are stolen or lost as long as the serial number is produced. They only take 24 hours to replace them. The main disadvantages are: most foreign retailers are not accepting them anymore, in some places they can only be used for changing local currency; and the range of currencies is limited.

Local debit cards and bank accounts

If the volunteer will be staying for a lengthy period of time, they could open a bank account and deposit money there. Using local debit cards is good especially if the volunteer doesn’t want to be charged by their home banks when transacting. This method saves money as transactions are only done once and there is no worry of foreign exchange rates.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Volunteering abroad myths

There many perceived myths that keep potential volunteers from going abroad. The main myths that keep people from volunteering abroad are its too expensive; the volunteers are either too old or too young; the volunteer programs are too long; is it safe and they are making a mistake. Most of the volunteer abroad myths come about because the volunteers are afraid of going alone; they have a limited budget; they are not well informed; a bad experience in the past and a prejudiced opinion. Even though these myths are easily dispelled many people still don’t volunteer abroad. The best way to tackle myths is to get proper information about volunteering abroad. With the information the volunteer will be able to answer any question s/he has about volunteering abroad. Here are some of the volunteering abroad myths that keep volunteers from going abroad and how to dispel them:

It’s too expensive to volunteer abroad

One myth potential volunteers have is that volunteering abroad is for the rich. They assume the cost of travelling and volunteering abroad is too high for them to afford. Although some volunteer service organizations ask volunteers to pay hefty fees that prohibit volunteering abroad. There are also more affordable volunteer service organizations that volunteers can use. Another thing that keeps volunteering from going abroad is the air fare. To bust this myth, the international volunteers should look for cheaper options. With regards to Volunteer Service Organizations, there are expensive and cheap organizations, the volunteer should research and find the organizations that can fit their budgets. Volunteers should take advantage of budget deals and try to buy air line tickets in advance, and be on the lookout for great deals. Also the travelers who will volunteer independently off volunteer service organizations, have to research the affordable ways of volunteering abroad for example they will have to stay in budget hostels, and keep their expenditure to a minimum. Bearing in mind that costs that the volunteer will incur are the same as the costs they will incur as though they are at home, as in they will still have to pay for rent, food and other expensive items. Most of international volunteers who go abroad are not rich but are average.

It’s not safe to volunteer abroad

Many volunteers fear for their safety while they are abroad. The volunteers fears that they will stand out and will be victims of crime. They also assume that the countries they could go to are dangerous and unsafe. Volunteering in a foreign country is relatively safe as volunteering at home. When the volunteer is abroad, they will safe because many of the local people will go out of their way to help them. Also while the volunteer will be abroad they will be other volunteers who will teach them how to be safe. An individual will never be a hundred percent safe even if they are at home and there are places that are safer than the others. While they are abroad, volunteers should try not to expose themselves to risky situations that would comprise their safety.

Are the volunteers too young or too old?

Another myth that is there is that the volunteers fear that they are too young or too old. Volunteering abroad has no age limits. Both the old and the young can be involved in volunteering abroad. For the younger volunteers, there are some companies that deal with only adults and some that include teenagers and adults. The younger volunteers should look for organizations that accommodate them and avoid the others. For older volunteers, the boomers, they should be involved in volunteer work that they are capable of doing. There are volunteers who are as old as 75 who take part in volunteer work. The boomers should choose volunteer work that will suit them to give back to the society more.

The volunteers will be too lonely

The volunteers fear that they won’t know anyone and might have problems making friends. Volunteers who are planning to go abroad are afraid that they will get home sick and miss their family and friends. It is normal for volunteers to miss home at some point. On the other hand volunteers will meet other volunteers and travelers who are abroad. As such the volunteers will not be lonely, they will also be working closely and in some occasions they will be living with the locals. There will be sometimes where they will be working alone but the volunteers will generally be with other people. To overcome loneliness the volunteers can be in constant communication with their families and they could travel with a friend or a family member.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Volunteer abroad Awards

There are various awards given to international volunteers to recognize their contribution. These awards are given to volunteers who have done work that has the hugest impact in the organization they are working in. Also these awards recognize the various projects that give back the most to the society. The rewards are from private and public organizations, learning institutions, and some volunteer service companies. The awards are in the form of trophies, scholarships, financial grants and certificates. Most volunteer organizations issue out certificate of participation as well as recommendation letters. Not all international volunteers are eligible for these awards. The awards criteria depend on the organization that issue them. Most of them also have an application procedure to the organization to make them aware of the work that the volunteer is doing. The rewards are not for financial gain or personal benefit but to acknowledge the work the international volunteer has been doing and to encourage others to do so.

Photos and blog posts

Photo and blog posts are the most common awards that are given to international volunteers. Volunteers who are abroad could take very good photos and send them to various companies and websites. The photos and blog posts are sent to magazines, websites and online publications. The rewards for this kind of competitions are: being featured in their magazine, financial compensation, certificates and recognition. Some volunteer service companies have these kinds of competitions whereby they promote the best photos or blog posts. They financial rewards could go as high up to $ 500 to $ 1000 for the best photos.

University and college awards

There are some colleges and universities who offer awards to their students who have volunteered abroad. Universities like James Madison University, Concordia University and University of Calgary recognize students who go abroad and help communities. Universities and colleges are proud of the students who involve themselves in community service or extracurricular activities apart from books and academic participation. Such institutions fosters an all round individual who have more to give back to the society. The awards are in the form of scholarships, individual recognition, funding of programs in which the students are participating in, certificates and trophies. The rewards are for the undergraduate students and postgraduate. The people who are eligible for such awards are the ones who are enrolled and alumna of the colleges and universities.

Charity awards

There are charities that also recognize individuals who go abroad to help the needy. The charities could be religious institutions, nonprofit organizations, for profit organizations and companies who invest in corporate social responsibility. These charities could also fund the volunteer work and the stay in the project location. There are various charities which reward guys who volunteer abroad for example Charity awards, African Impact, Volunteer Capital Centre and Volunteer Service Overseas . To be eligible for these awards you have to enroll with the charity, and be an active member. The awards are in the form of scholarships, certificates, recognition and funding of projects.

Local organization awards

Apart from rewards from charities and societies, the volunteer who are abroad could win awards in the nonprofit in which they are working for. The nonprofit or not for profit organizations are at the grass root level and they are the ones who work directly with the local people. They are the ones who come up with programs and projects for the volunteers to work in. since most of the local nonprofit organization have little resources the awards are not in the form of financial rewards, but they are certificates, trophies and public recognition of the work they did. Every organization has different rewards to give to the volunteers who work with them.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Volunteer abroad programs for teens

There are teens who want to give back to the society and some want to travel abroad to help those with needs. Teens who want to volunteer abroad could be the age of 13 to 19 years. Teens bring incredible energy and enthusiasm to the volunteer programs. There are many volunteer abroad programs which include: teaching, orphanage work, HIV/AIDS work, Community development, health or medical programs. Many of these programs don’t require any qualifications and anyone can apply for them. Choosing a program depends on the volunteer likes, skills, qualifications and strengths. Although there are various options available for the teens there are some which are best suited for them. Here are a couple of programs that are popular with teens:

Volunteer sports programs

Depending on the country they are going to, there are a number of volunteer sports programs. In the sports programs the volunteer could be expected to teach various sports to the participants. The participants are normally kids and other teens. The sports include football, rugby, extreme sports, basketball, tennis and other sports. . The main role for the volunteers will be acting as a coach, and they will be responsible for teaching the rules of the sports. Other roles will include: preparing and implementing sports camps, planning sports lessons, fostering local talents and preparing tournaments. Anyone can volunteer in these programs, but athletic ones and those who love sports are the ones who are better placed for such programs.

Volunteer teaching programs

Volunteers will teach public schools, orphanages and community schools.. The volunteer will be involved in teaching English, Math, Science, Music, social Studies and physical education. The volunteers will partner with local teachers and other volunteers to provide proper education to the children. The teens who are best suited for this program are the ones who like kids; enjoy teaching, and prefer certain subjects. The roles and responsibilities include: Spending time with the kids; Work as a teaching assistant; Work as a social worker with the Administrator; Help in cooking and cleaning; Help in sports activities; and Playing with the kids

Volunteer orphanage work

Volunteer orphanage work involves working with kids who have lost their parents or have a single parent but the parent can’t support the family. The kids in the orphanage range between the ages of 3 to 18 years. The volunteer will be expected to help out in the orphanage. Most of the work that will be done will be early in the mornings and in the afternoons, during the day the children in the orphanage will be in school. The main roles and responsibilities include: taking care of the kids, feeding the children, playing with the kids, washing them, helping out with their homework and mentoring the children. The volunteers who do this work are the ones who love kids, patient and fun loving.

Wildlife programs

Wildlife conservation programs deals with a host of animals. The programs could include land animals and marine life. The programs are in the animals habitats meaning in some programs the volunteers will be working in a jungle, in the ocean, game parks and deserts. The main roles and responsibilities include rescuing animals, help in making censuses, researching on the wild animals, prevention of poaching, rehabilitation of the animals, study behavioral patterns of animals. These programs are for volunteers who love working with animals; don’t mind basic conditions and can stay in the wild for long periods of time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Volunteer abroad victims of crime

An individual will never be a hundred percent safe from crime or targets for a crime. Some places are safer than others but crime is present everywhere. The perpetrators of the crimes could be the local people or fellow volunteers and sometimes the victims themselves. Crime against people is equal to both men and women in that they are both attacked. Unfortunately in some places women are found to be easier and sympathetic targets, as such they are targeted more. Travelling abroad has its risks and one of them is crime. Sooner or later international volunteers become victims of crime. There will be a point in time that some volunteers will fall victim and this article is to help you handle with certain situations and to avoid being victim of a crime. There are basic tips to avoid being a victim like avoid being too trusting, the volunteers putting them self at risk; over consumption of alcohol, avoid high risk areas and countries; and provoking other people. Here is how to avoid being a victim and what to do if it has already happened:


Robbery is one of the most common crimes that international volunteers could face. Most international volunteers are robbed in airports, trains busses and crowded areas. The volunteers are robbed of their luggage, purses, passports, jewelry, cameras, wallets and watches. The thieves rob the volunteers through snatching, at gun point, knife point, distract the volunteers, cut a hole on the purses or jackets, and steal while the volunteers are asleep. To avoid being robbed the volunteers who are abroad, could take better care of their belonging, get a money bag or purse and put it in their clothes, stitch a pocket on to their clothes to hide their valuables, make copies of their valuables and to leave their valuables in a safe place. After the international volunteer has been robbed, there are various way of handling the issue: inform the authorities, inform the banks and credit companies, inform relatives and loved ones to send help, and go to their embassies to report the matter.


This is whereby the volunteer is lied to about the price of an object or a service. It also occurs when the volunteer is cheated in to believing to invest in a business transaction. The most common scam are taxi scams whereby the driver overcharges the volunteer; drives the volunteer in circles to get a better deal, threatens the volunteer. To avoid this, the volunteers should call the official taxi service numbers to get help; they should have a common driver with whom they have used before, get a local person to travel with them. To handle this, the volunteer should report the driver to his superiors and before paying s/he should inquire about the price of the service. Business scams are whereby the volunteers are duped into investing into a business idea or proposal. This is common especially if the idea involves investing in local jewelry, gems, and mined resources (gold, diamond, etc). As the truth can’t be determined even if the volunteer has seen the gems or mined resources they should avoid such transactions. The deal could be too good to be true and should be avoid. It’s hard to handle such crimes as this will end up in court and it could drag on for months.

Racial Crimes

This is rare most parts of the world, but it is common in certain parts of the world. For examples US citizens are targeted by some Muslim organizations like AL Qaeda. Some countries in South America like Chile are not fond of Americans. In countries like Vietnam, Philippines and Thailand don’t like foreigners because some of them have bad habits that conflict with their cultures for example drinking, sleeping with prostitutes and smoking. In such places, the volunteers should be extra cautious about their behavior and habits in front of the locals. The best way to handle this problem is by going to the volunteers’ National embassy to solve the issue.

Volunteer Crimes
In some rare occasions the volunteers are the perpetrators of the crimes. The volunteers could be the ones who break the laws by for example taking photos of security related institutions, purchasing some antiques (some of the locals may seem them as national relics or treasures, possessions of fire arms, and drug violations( the volunteers are caught in possession of illegal drugs). To avoid such scenarios the international volunteers should acquaint themselves with the rules and regulations. Also they should ask for permission to do certain things.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Volunteer abroad accommodation

Accommodation, where to stay, makes or breaks a good holiday or stay in a foreign place. Travelers who rush into picking a place to stay normally end up regretting because of not choosing carefully. As an international volunteer going abroad s/he should plan on where they will stay. On choosing on where to stay the volunteer should look into the meals, if they are shared or single rooms, price, services like laundry, WIFI connection, and excursions. International volunteers should look carefully at these factors when choosing a place to stay. The various types of accommodation available are homestays, hostels, hotels, group homes, the project location, couchsurfing, and home exchanges. Each of these options have their advantages and their disadvantages. These places offer:

Hotels/ Motels

These are the most comfortable but most expensive places to stay in. Hotels are great as they are a home away from home; the staff makes the volunteer as comfortable as possible. The services offered vary from hotel to hotel. Most hotels are ranked from 2 stars to 5 stars, 5 stars hotels are high end hotel and are very luxurious while 2 stars are not as fancy as 5 star ones. Many hotels have websites that show their rooms and the services they offer to help travelers have a glimpse of what to expect. Budget hotels and motels offer basic services as opposed to luxurious hotels. Hotels are a great option if the volunteers are going to stay for a short period of time, need privacy, new to a country and need a bit of pampering or reminded of home.


Hostels are a common option to backpackers, round the world travelers, gap years, international volunteers and students. Typical hostels are made of single, double, and dorm rooms. The dorm rooms have about 6 bunk beds; the beds normally have a heavy blanket with optional sheets. There is a communal shower, while those who choose private rooms have private showers. Some hostels provide laundry services, WIFI, free breakfast and some have a community kitchen. Most hostels are locked during the day so that they can be cleaned. In the evening some hostels offer social settings, with a bar which serves cheap drinks. The hostels are used to travelers and provide needs that suit travelers. Some hostels don’t have curfews but some do. They are a great place to meet other travelers and travel with them. Generally hostels are the cheapest form of accommodation travelers can get but they lack privacy as the travel may share the dorm room with 10 other international volunteers. Some hostels are gender specific and they are for girls only or boys only.

Group Homes

These are normally provided by the volunteer service companies. These are homes that are in the host country whereby all the volunteers will be staying. They are normally single and double rooms. They have a caretaker and chef who will help the volunteers for all their needs. Three meals are provided and they are served at a certain time. Volunteer group homes have someone who will do their laundry in some occasion they provide transportation to and fro the project location. Some homes provide orientation classes to help the volunteer to learn about the host country, the language and currency. The price of group homes vary with the volunteer service organization as the price is included with the volunteer program. They are safe, secure and are great for first time travelers.

Renting property

These are made available by the volunteers themselves. The property could be house, apartment, flats and townhouses. With this option the volunteers looks for a place to stay and buys furniture for themselves. The apartments are a great option if the volunteer is going to stay for a long period of time. There are great deals out there where by a volunteer could commit themselves for two to three months to paying rent in that place. Renting rules and regulations depend on the landlord/lady and the city. These are good especially if the volunteers are in a group whereby they can save a lot of money by renting their own homes. Older volunteers, boomers, prefer this kind of setting whereby they are able to be comfortable and some could even buy a car.


Other options are available to international volunteers but are not too common. One way is through couch surfing. Couch surfing is whereby the volunteer stay in a person’s home and they buy food for a couple of days. There is a network of homes that offer couchsurfing opportunities. This is one of the cheapest ways of traveling as it’s free. There are rules that go with couchsurfing; the volunteer should know them. Another option is home exchanges whereby the volunteer goes to live in another person’s home while the owners are on holiday or are traveling. The volunteers’ take care of the house and forward mail to the owners.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Family volunteering abroad tips

Families who take vacations together are added meaning to their holidays by adding volunteering to the vacation. The family volunteering abroad could be made up of children, teens, young adults and grandparents. Family volunteer abroad work includes: construction projects, orphanage programs, conservation projects and mentorship programs. The advantages of family volunteering overseas are great rewarding experience; forming the children’s’ world view; empower the kids to see they can change the world; expands the children’s insight; gives families time to bond; and exciting travel opportunities. Volunteers who want to go abroad with their families should look for organizations that can accommodate everyone’s needs and wants. Family volunteers should look into the following when planning their volunteer abroad trip:


If the volunteer family has young children between the ages of 6 to 14 years extra precautions should be taken. Before leaving home, the parents should explain to the children what they are going to do abroad and inform them of safety precautions. With older kids, they should inform their parents where they are going and what time they are coming back. As parents, they should: get bright colored clothes for their kids for them to be noticeable in a crowd; stitch the names of the children on the inside of the clothes; keep a recent photo of the kids; one parent should always keep an eye on the kids while the other parent is doing something else; know what to do in case of an emergency; and keep medicines and other harmful objects away from kids.


Attitude is like expectations, explain to the children what they are going to do and what to expect. The volunteer parents should not give the kids false expectations and hopes; they should be honest with their kids. Also parents should find ways to change the attitude of their children. When the parent sees the child is developing a negative attitude they should try and improve it as quickly as possible. When the child gets a negative attitude, it will affect everyone else’s mood and make the work twice as hard. The parents should find way to make the volunteer work more engaging or stop working when they see the child has become too uncomfortable. During long flights parents should buy extra toys that would distract their kids. If there is something that is stressing the parents they should find ways of hiding their frustration from the kids. One way to change the children’s attitude is by engaging them in the planning process making them feel more important in the vacation.

Volunteer work

The volunteer family should choose a volunteer program that suits the needs of ever member of the family. There are various programs available to choose from for example: conservation, orphanage, mentorship programs, sports, building and construction and agricultural programs. Depending on the age and desires of the family members they should choose programs that will work for everyone. For example grandparents may enjoy orphanage work more to sports activities, while the children could prefer the opposite. The family members’ capabilities should be put into consideration when choosing a program. Take note that overly physical jobs will be hard for the younger and older family members. Parents should involve their children when picking volunteer work in which everyone can enjoy them. Another option will be to different family members involved in different programs but in the same location.


Lastly, when planning for family volunteering abroad the volunteers should look into where they are going to stay. The options available to volunteers are hostels, hotels, dorms, homestay and couch surfing. The different accommodations are suitable for different type of travelers. Younger children will require more private accommodation while older kids would be better placed in less private accommodation like hostels. When volunteering as a family the accommodation options are homestays, hotels and hostels. If the volunteers have very young kids they should pick a place which has few potential hazards. When the parents arrive at the hotel or hostel, they should try to make the place child proof. They should teach the kids of emergency procedures just in case something happens and the children should be supervised throughout the stay.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Choosing the best time to volunteer abroad

One overlooked item when planning to volunteer abroad is time. Many volunteers look at project location, program, project duration and cost. Many of them don’t factor in the best time to of the year to volunteer abroad. As with travelling abroad, time of the year to volunteer overseas is influenced by many factors. Some of these factors include, season, weather, peak, and off peak .Finding the best time to volunteer has many advantages as you can make most of budget deals and volunteer work. Although predicting when is the best time to volunteer overseas or travel abroad is not an exact science volunteers should make the most of the advice available. Not planning when to volunteer abroad leads to many participants being disappointed and frustrated. In order to avoid being disappointed volunteers should choose the best time to volunteer abroad by considering the following:

Volunteer abroad program

There are numerous programs being offered to potential volunteers, but some are time sensitive. For example volunteer conservation projects which involve animals and marine life. This is because most animals migrate from one region and move to other regions. For example wildebeest migration from Kenya to Tanzania occurs between March to July, in the following months there will be few wildebeest left in Kenya until the months of August and September. The migration patterns are not easy to predict and one should be careful when planning short volunteer programs. Apart from wildlife and marine programs, there are others like Volunteer teaching whereby they are not available. During certain months the schools are closed and the programs cannot go on. As volunteer, one should work with the school calendar and migration patterns in order not to miss out.


When leaving home for another country the volunteers should consider public holidays of the countries they are going to. Most public holidays are only a day and in those days many government offices and some public institutions are closed. Others are much longer and meaning accessing the government offices are closed. Apart from national holidays there are religious holidays like Christmas, Ramadan, Easter, Lent, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Boxing Day. Other holidays include Labor Day, New years day which are celebrated in different days of the year depending on the country. These days will affect your volunteer vacation as most people will not be working in those days. Knowing significant holidays on the country the volunteering helps you to plan on the best days to visit. Some volunteers go to certain countries in order to see how they celebrate their national holidays for example many people go to see bull fighting in Spain.


Visiting countries during the high seasons or peak seasons things are very expensive. Hotels and hostel, airfares and restaurants are very highly priced during this period. Not planning when to volunteer abroad leads to many participants being disappointed and frustrated. Peak and off peak seasons vary according to where the volunteer is, in s/he is at home it could be off peak but it could be peak to where they are going. To take advantage of budget deals the volunteers should constantly look at airline websites and to find out which is the best time to buy airline tickets. The best time for any volunteer to travel is normally during the shoulder seasons, this is normally during the high and low season. This is when airlines, hotels and hostels offer the best deals on the seasons. Also during this time other volunteers will be available. During the off-peak season there are normally fewer volunteers and foreigners. Sometimes with volunteer will be the only foreigner and could be very lonely.


Lastly, volunteers should consider in which season they are travelling. They should consider the season of the destination country rather than their own. In certain seasons it’s not practical to volunteer due to weather patterns. In Florida for example during the months of June to September is tornado season and it is normally difficult for volunteers. Also in certain parts of Africa, especially in rural areas due to heavy rainfall there is normally flash flooding and the rivers burst their banks. With the flooding it is hard to access basic resources and moving around is very difficult. In other parts of the world there are typhoon seasons in which the volunteer should try and avoid. In certain seasons there is a high prevalent of diseases for example Malaria infection is highest during the rainy seasons.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Volunteering abroad medication

During this time volunteers are working abroad they are could fall sick. There are various diseases that can affect many of the volunteers. The diseases that affect them depend on the place, season and climate, unhygienic places, environment, and susceptibility to them. Fortunately most of the diseases can be prevented through vaccinations and other measures. Diseases which can be vaccinated against are Malaria, Yellow fever, typhoid and Hepatitis A and B can be vaccinated against. In some cases the volunteers will be working in areas where they will not have access to medication to cure the diseases. Or they could have medicines which could have adverse side effects. Although some diseases are preventable there are others which aren’t. As a result, the volunteer should carry some medicinal pills before you leave for your volunteer abroad trip. Here are things volunteers should have with them while they are abroad:


Not many volunteers plan on carrying condoms and other contraceptives. After staying in the host country for a period of time, the volunteers could involve in a romantic relationship with either one of the local people or a fellow volunteer. Some of the volunteers get involved in sexual relations. By doing so, they are exposing themselves to a host of diseases for example HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and others. The volunteers should be prepared and always have condoms in hand so as to avoid these diseases. Condoms are not 100% safe or effective but they reduce the risk of infection by 70%. Condoms prevent sexually diseases and pregnancies. Condoms are normally available in most parts of the world. They are accessible from local hospitals and can be found in most retail centres. Although there are certain communities in parts of the world who are conservative and in such places it will not be easy to get condoms.

Insect repellents

Most of the diseases abroad and at home are caused by insects. The insects carry parasites or pathogens that cause the diseases. The insects that are more likely to give the volunteers problems are ticks, mosquitoes, certain types of flies, ticks, mites, fleas, lice, bedbugs and ants. These insects aide in the transmission of malaria, Nile virus, yellow fever, river blindness, sleeping sickness and Lyme disease. While doing the volunteer abroad work, the volunteers could be exposed to these pests. There are various insect repellents that are available for example Repel, Muskol, Cutter Advanced, and Cutter Tick Defense. These repellents are available as liquids, wipes, sprays and lotions. Using these repellents has some side effects like skin irritation. Many of the insect repellents that are sold are not registered or regulated and caution should be taken when choosing which one to use. Also the volunteers should note that these repellents are not 100% and they only work for a number of hours.

Water treatment

Water is very important and it’s what every traveler and volunteer should be having. International volunteers should buy water whenever they get the opportunity. Most of the places where the volunteers would be working won’t have access to clean water. Untreated water carries host of parasites with it. Untreated water has water borne disease like Botulism, Cholera, E. Coli infection, Dysentery, Typhoid, and Gastroenteritis. Water is contaminated by a number of ways e.g. infested animal feaces, some type of flies and sewage. The volunteer can get sick if s/he consumes the water or eats food prepared by contaminated water. If the volunteer will be working in rural areas and cant access treated water s/he should buy water treatment tablets like iodine crystals, and chlorines based halazone. Water purification could be done through boiling, filtration, solar distillation and prevention of water contamination. Other solutions to this problem are the volunteers should drink tea, coffee, wine or beer. If the volunteer is afraid of getting amoebic dysentery, s/he should eat strong dosage of garlic for 15 days

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grownups volunteering abroad

The idea of travelling to another country and avoiding the tourist areas to live with the local people fascinates many grownup travelers. Many grownups who volunteer abroad include boomers, expatriates and retirees. Their reasons to volunteer abroad differ greatly to the younger international volunteers. For example younger travelers who volunteer overseas do it to help their careers or to find themselves. While the main reasons why grownups volunteer abroad are: a strong interest in a particular cause, project or subject area; a desire to visit a region to see the grass roots of a community; and a wish to give back something to the world. One of the few advantages of being an older volunteer is that they don’t have budgetary constraints and they have more times on their hands. Grownup international volunteers should consider the following before they leave for their volunteer abroad work:


As they grow older international volunteers become more vulnerable to illness and diseases. Some volunteer abroad programs require medical checkups to determine whether the volunteers are up to the work they will be doing. Even though it is not mandatory older international volunteers should visit their General Practitioners. Full medical checkups should be done and they should be given the various immunizations and vaccinations for their volunteer abroad work. After the checkup volunteers should contact the volunteer service company to find out any health risks that are involved in the area that they are going to be working in. They should find out the quality and availability of the health care at the program site. Some programs provide medical and travel insurance but if they don’t have the grownup volunteer should get some for him/herself. Some volunteers have lasting medical conditions and they need constant medication. The volunteers should find out the availability of the medication. Lastly the international volunteer should find out what happens in case of medical emergencies and how they are dealt with.

Program duration

The grownup volunteers have the option of having long or short term volunteer abroad programs. Short term programs are between one week to three months while longer ones are between six months to 3 years. Volunteering for long term programs will mean considering to buy or rent property, cars and other essential things to make their stay more comfortable. Also for longer programs the volunteers must take care of responsibilities that they have at home. These responsibilities include financial and legal responsibility. Financial obligations include taxation, mortgages and rents. Due to online banking one can handle financial obligations while they are away. While the volunteer is abroad s/he should consider selling, renting or storing cars, property and furniture. The volunteers should find a person who will be forwarding mail to them and taking care of other things like family pets.

Volunteer abroad program

Choosing the right volunteer program should be decided according to the volunteer’s skills and abilities. Many grownup international volunteers are very well educated and have a number of years of working experience. They have a wealth of knowledge and it can be imparted on the program they are working on. Programs should be well tailored and structured to meet the needs of the volunteer. As most grownup volunteers are focused they should be in programs that are worthwhile and add value to the community. The program chosen should keep the volunteer engaged throughout the period. Grownup volunteers should also choose work in which they are capable to do. They should not pick programs which too physical or too much work which would leave them too exhausted. They should pick programs in which they can work at their pace and at their leisure while at the same time it should be challenging.


Most volunteer abroad programs are in rural areas where the terrain is rough and uncomfortable. The grownup volunteers might also be forced to do manual labor that involves a lot of physical energy. This means the volunteers should be physically fit to handle the work they are going to do and to be able to live comfortably in the project area. In some occasions the volunteers will have to travel for long distances on a public bus and they need to be able to withstand the trip. The volunteers should stay healthy and keep fit by going to a local gym or do polite cardio muscular exercise. Some programs like WWOFing, building and sports require the volunteer to do manual labor. While they are abroad they should also eat healthy in order to avoid complications.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Volunteer abroad cons

Combining volunteering and tourism to have voluntourism gives a traveler to enjoy their holiday longer and make it more fruitful. Traditional tourism is where a tourist or a traveler goes to a beach, safari, and hotel. Volunteering abroad involves going to another country to help the local communities by working on worthwhile projects and programs. Volunteering abroad or voluntourism is new and exciting adventure that many people are getting to. Volunteering abroad is getting more popular with many travelers they are shifting from traditional tourism. As a result many organizations and companies are jumping into this new industry. The problems come in as the industry is not regulated as traditional tourism. There is no body that reviews the volunteer service organizations that provide the volunteer abroad programs. There are also no rules or guidelines that have been set to regulate the industry. Apart from lack of regulations there are other problems in the volunteering abroad industry:

Not for profit vs. For profit organization.

Not for profit and for profit organizations basically provide the same services. They both have local and grassroots organizations that they are supporting. They both provide the same programs i.e. volunteer abroad teaching, health work; orphanage work; community work and conservation projects. The problem comes in choosing which organization to use. There are some which are affordable while there are others which are expensive. Both types of organizations could charge as much as $ 4,000 and as low as $ 1,100 for a month. These prices make it difficult to decide which companies are in it for the money or for helping the societies. It also hard to find out which of these organizations help the local communities or they help themselves with the money you pay them.

Volunteer abroad programs

One of the main problems is matching the volunteer abroad program with the volunteer. There are volunteers who come back after their volunteer work and they are inspired and changed for life. But there are others who come back without any benefit. Time should be taken on both sides to find programs that they will benefit both parties the volunteer and the organization. The structure of the programs is important. The programs should be setup by the local organization and should be made in order to meet the goals of the society. The programs should be made to meet the needs of the society. Other problems with the programs are that they are not sustainable. In that they sometimes lack continuity in that the work started by one group of volunteer stops when they leave. The work stops because there is no one to continue. For example building projects could be stalled when the volunteers leave. Programs should be made in such a way that they are effective, and are sustainable with or without volunteers.


Another issue to be addressed is that are international volunteers taking jobs away from the local people. The work the volunteer does can usually be done by a local individual faster and cheaper. Many local organizations look for international volunteers to fill up staff positions in order not to pay them. They have the capacity to hire local people but they choose to take volunteers. This reduces the effectiveness of the volunteer work and deprives the local job market.


The international volunteers many times do not know what they are getting into. They are not properly prepared by the volunteer service organization on what to expect when they volunteer abroad. When they arrive at the project location they are shocked and disappointed at the conditions. As they are not properly informed on the situation on the ground they don’t know whether to accept things or complain to someone. Before they get into a contract with the organizations volunteers should know what they are getting into and be fully informed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Obstacles to volunteering abroad

Many people want to travel and volunteer abroad. It is their dream to go, see and experience the world. Most of the potential international volunteers don’t leave home because of the obstacles they see. As they start planning their dream vacation to volunteer abroad, or gap year, round the world trip backpack and intern abroad they are overwhelmed by the obstacles that they foresee. They look at their problems facing them and say “if only” or “I wish” this wasn’t there or if I had this or that. Due to the obstacles they face, many international volunteers stay grounded and don’t leave their homes. Obstacles and challenges are there in everything we do, to get over them we need to look hard at them and come up with solutions. Here are some of the obstacles that many people face and their solutions:


Fear of the unknown is what scares most of us from leaving home. This is true especially for first time international volunteers who don’t know what happens while they will be abroad. They are afraid of anything and everything that they can think of. There are many questions we could be having and many of them don’t have answers that keep us from volunteering overseas. Also to increase the level of fear, many government bodies advice international volunteers not to go to certain parts of the world due to terrorist activities. We encourage governments to warn their citizens and we should heed terror warnings. We should use this advice but not to cripple us not to travel. To tackle this problem is by doing what we are afraid of doing. Another solution is to get as much information about where and what you are afraid. With more knowledge you will be able to make a more informed decision. We should follow this saying on our lives “I will go where fear won’t let me.”


Many international volunteers have certain responsibilities. It could be that they are in school, college, university; at work; and have family responsibilities. Many international volunteers could be parents or soon to be parents. These responsibilities keep many of us from traveling abroad. To travel abroad we could come up with solutions that keep us from abandoning our responsibilities. For student international volunteers they could travel during their summer breaks, or before and after they join universities or colleges. For career international volunteers, they could take a career break to volunteer overseas or use their short vacation period. There are short stint volunteer programs which run from a week to a month. For parents or soon to be parents they can volunteer abroad if they take their kids with them. This will involve looking for programs whereby they can volunteer with their kids. They can also travel during the summer vacations in order to make sure their children don’t miss out on school.


Many people assume volunteering abroad is an expensive endeavor and they avoid doing it. There are many ways to make your money work for you in order for you to volunteer overseas. There are many volunteer service organizations that are expensive while at the same time there are other organizations that are affordable. To reduce the cost of travelling, one could take advantage of flight deals by booking in advance or during off seasons. Travelling in group also reduces the price drastically. If you don’t have the money available for your volunteer abroad program, you can fund raise or look for sponsorship. While you are abroad you can live on a budget to take care of the money that you have.


There are countries where by you can’t get in to easily because of your nationality. For example an American citizen could face extra restrictions if they want to travel to Cuba and some Middle East countries. When you are in one country and you want to move on to the next one you may not be granted a visa to go to that country. To tackle this, apply for visas early in advance, to take care of problems that you could face. In some occasions ask for an invitation letter from the volunteer service organization that you are using to help with processing your visa. Another alternative is to travel to another country as opposed to your first choice country.

All in all we should not look for excuses not to travel but solutions to our challenges. Happy Halloween every one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Volunteer abroad safety tips for female volunteers

Safety is a concern for many people who travel abroad. There is always a risk that something could happen to the traveler while they are abroad. Male volunteers are not safe while they abroad but female volunteers are more at risk than them. Due to their small stature (smaller than the average male) they are more at risk while they are volunteering abroad. Female international volunteers are easier targets than their male counterparts. Being a female volunteer requires them to pay special attention to her and the surroundings. There is a lot to fear while volunteering abroad as a female volunteer but it shouldn’t deter you from leaving home. Here are some tips to help:


While you are abroad try and dress up according to the standards that are there. If you dress inappropriately it is seen as offensive. For example in Muslim and Arab nations, women should cover all parts of their bodies. The women are covered from head to toe. In other places, the cultures are conservative and the women there don’t wear tight fitting clothes and showing cleavage. Before going abroad find out how the local people dress up. To be safe, try wearing loose fitting clothes, long pants and long dresses. Avoid also wearing expensive jewelry and clothing as these attract attention, and you may be robbed of them. Try dressing up like the locals.

Fake rings

Put on a fake wedding ring that will detract many male suitors. As a female volunteer many men will try and get you. As they may assume that most western foreigners from Europe and the Americas are loose women with questionable morals. To avoid such advances put on wedding ring and if still approached tell them of your happy “marriage” it’s also advisable to carry with you photos of a man. The man could be your brother, friend or cousin to detract their advance.


On the occasions you are invited to a party, or you are in a bar or restaurant, avoid to drink too much. When you are drunk you will become more vulnerable and you will have less control of yourself and your situation. When in bars do not accept drinks that have been opened, ask the waiters or the bar tender to open the bottle when you are seeing. As a rule of thumb don’t accept drinks from stranger that are open. There have been cases where drugs are slipped onto the alcohol then you will black out not remembering what happened during the night. Go out in groups or with somebody with whom you trust and will take care of you when you over indulge. Also when you are having a good time know your alcohol limit and avoid taking drinks you are not used.

Stay in touch

While you are volunteering abroad always stay in touch with a friend or your family. Email, text, call your family to update them of your whereabouts. Always keep updating them on how you are doing and where you are going. Try to keep them informed with almost everything that is going on. When something happens they will try and help you. Also when you are leaving the volunteer program or volunteer home, always inform them where you are going and when they should expect you back. This way, they will always be somebody who is looking over you.

Being alert

As a foreigner you will be an easy target for thieves and pickpockets. When you are in large crowds try to be mindful of your things and your surroundings. Get to know the emergency numbers: learn the police, hospital and fire emergency numbers. Try and learn some of the local words just in case you might need some help. In the foreign country mind your body language so as not to send the wrong signals. For example in some cultures women don’t look directly in to the eyes of men. When you do so you may encourage the man to assault your or be rude to you. In such cases try to be mindful and when talking to older men try and looking at the floor and being formal.


Menstruation can be an issue while you are abroad, because sometimes you might not be able to access pads and tampons during your girl’s day. Also with menstruation come cramps and body ache making you uncomfortable during that time. To reduce the effects of menstruation visit your General practitioner to give you advice on what to do. Generally many female volunteers carry contraception pills to avoid menstruation. Other solutions are a contraceptive implant, and the coil.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lessons learnt while volunteering abroad

“You are not in Kansas anymore.” Is a famous quote from the story the wizard of Oz. It’s the same feeling most international volunteers feel when they are volunteering abroad. However much a person has travelled and places a person has been to, there are always new experiences and new lessons to be learnt while you are abroad. At home we get used to the way things are and how they should be. When we go abroad everything changes, for example if you are used to eating using forks and knives, there are other places like in Africa where they mostly use their hands to eat. In Japan and china people use mostly chopsticks for their meals. As an international volunteer you will see how people do things differently and since you can’t change them you will have to change yourself and adjust to the new conditions. Here are a couple of lessons you will learn while you volunteer abroad

About yourself
When you are volunteering abroad, you will get to have a new cultural experience and see how that part of the world is. You will see their traditions, customs and their beliefs. When you are exposed to their virtues, values and vices you get to appreciate your culture more. You will see how different your culture is from theirs. While you are abroad, you will learn new things about yourself that you didn’t know. You will find out how you don’t so many things. You will learn to be more flexible, and it will be easier for you to adjust to new conditions. You will learn how to get by with less and make the most of what you have. You will be able to come up with creative solutions and out of the box like thinking to solve problems. At the end of your volunteer work you will be more mature and more adept to understanding situations. Generally you will become a better human being and learn to be patient in order to get along with people

If you want to learn a language properly, going to a country that speaks the language will be the fastest way to do it. If you want to speak Spanish, going to Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries will help you grasp the language faster. Being there will give you a chance to learn and practice the language. When you are in third world countries you will be able to pick up other local languages that are spoken. For example in Kenya they official language is English but they also speak Kiswahili and when you volunteer in Kenya you will be able to pick up the Kiswahili language as well. Learning to speak various languages will put you in a better position and you will be able to work anywhere while at the same time travel to any part of the world.

While you volunteer abroad you will always be conscience of your safety. You would have known how to keep your important things safe from being stolen and how to keep yourself from harm. You will also know how to avoid problems that could comprise your safety. For example as a lady you will know it’s not advisable not to wear too much jewelry as they will attract negative attention. Also you would know which clothes that would offend the local people. Being abroad teaches you how to interact with local without leading to disputes and also helps you in problem solving.

There will always be good and bad days wherever you are. Good days are awesome especially in a new place. Bad days are much worse while you are abroad because you don’t know how to react in such situations. A bad day could be like when you lose important documents or have a bad encounter with one of the locals. In such occasions you will learn ways to solve your problems and moving on. One of my favorite ways is stepping back, laugh at the situation then you will be able to come up with a solution. Smiling with people also helps to solve problems that you could be having with people. As foreigners travelling in a country it is best to stay positive even though our situation could be dire.
Document your experience
Volunteers keep blogs, websites, journals, photos and videos to document their travel experience. Later on in life many past volunteer wish that they took more photos or wrote more to remind them of their experience. Doing all this will be great especially if you are telling your friend s about your trip abroad.

For more information and great deals on volunteering in Africa visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org/kenya.aspx

Monday, October 18, 2010

Making money while volunteering abroad

Travelers who are abroad for lengthy periods of time think only of how much they are going to spend. International volunteers, gap year individuals, career breaks, and students who are abroad; all budget for the length of their stay. They plan to spend as little as possible so that to make sure they don’t run out of money. Most of them forget that while they are volunteering abroad, they can also make money. There are various creative ways to make the most of your holiday by making money while at the same time enjoying it. Although it can be more intimidating looking for a job while you are abroad there are many creative solutions that are available for you to use. These money making solutions won’t make you rich but they could help you extend your holiday and give you more opportunities. They are:


Starting a blog is free, and many websites offer you an opportunity to start a blog. There are Google blogs, yahoo blogs, MSN blog, Wordpress blogs and many others. Starting a blog is not hard, all you need is to blog about something you love, you can write about where you are volunteering, what you are doing and where you have been. The blogs can be just about anything and if they have good quality content and have a huge following you can make good money. You can popularize your blog by telling your friends and friends of friends to stop by and read it. You can make money on your blog through running Google adwords; infolinks, affiliate marketing and paid advertising. When you blog long enough and consistently (like 2 or 3 times a week), your blog will become more popular and you will have more readers. With the increase of readers it will lead you to get more money from the blog. There are people who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars because they have been doing it for years, but as an individual doing it as a hobby you could earn up to $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 per month. Start blogging now so by the time you are on your holiday you will be earning money while abroad. Note that blogging takes time and patience.

Article writing

Writing articles is like blogging but a bit different. You could write articles about something you also love and know well about. When you have a topic to write about, go to Google or any other search engine and research about your topic. You article could be 500 to 700 words, well researched and presented. Writing a good article takes between 30 minutes to an hour. After writing an article you could sell your articles to publishers, and magazines. Publishers are constantly looking for new and fresh content on the net and they are willing to pay money for the articles. Most online publishers will pay $ 7 to $ 15 per article. If you are able to write an article per day or two per day during your free time and sell them in a month you will earn $ 500 to $ 1000. The tricky part is selling the articles to online publishers. Once you have a constant market you will make good money. Writing articles is like blogging you need patience and consistency to start making good money.

Pictures and videos

While you are abroad you experience and are exposed to new things. You can document your experiences through photos and videos. Many people would love to see your photos about a village in rural Kenya and videos of their homes. There are companies which will even pay you for your videos and photos like for example National Geographic. Apart from taking photos of common land marks and tourist sites, look for unique photos which could tell a story. Travel companies and other organization could pay you a large amount for what is in your camera.

Making money online

There are websites like Squidoo and Hubpages who pay you when you write lens or hubs on the website. They each have different criteria on rewarding their users. On Squidoo they use tiers to pay their website users. The best part of these online ventures you can write about anything and you can start making good money after 6 – 12 months depending on the quality of your work. Once you have made a lens or a hub it will always make money for you until it stops being popular. Go to their websites for more information.

Offline methods
You can get paid voluntary work with some volunteer travel organizations, but they don’t pay you too well. They give you just enough to pay for basic needs. You can also apply for white collar jobs where you don’t need work experience or any qualifications or a work permit. Jobs like working at a book store, working at a mall, waitressing, and as an aupair. You can also work as a tour guide. Other good ideas are working on an organic farm (WOOF) whereby you are given a room and food to work on the farm. This kind of job is preferred to by gap years and it’s also physically intensive.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Volunteer abroad advice

Traveling is a disease that is not easy to cure; some say it’s caused by being bitten by a travel bug. Travelers could be those who are going to: volunteer abroad; gap year; study abroad; intern abroad; tourist abroad; career break and boomers abroad. Many of the travelers especially those who are going to stay for a long period of time like for months or years fail to plan. Most volunteers who are abroad plan to: pay the air fare, get travel insurance and for accommodation. They forget about planning for small things that make a big difference like: carrying extra money; bathrooms could be different; having your passport all the time; travelling in the host country; manners and minding locals; and realizing you are the different one not them. Other than these there are more important things you should know that will help you enjoy your volunteer abroad vacation:

Travel policy

Reading the fine print when you are using a travel agent is important because you would want to know who will take care of you when things go wrong. As a volunteer going to work abroad you are most probably going to use a volunteer travel organization that organizes volunteer work. Most of these organizations plus other travel and tour operators have travel policies or terms and conditions. Knowing these will help you to plan how you will take care of yourself when things go south. Things like political coups, racist movements, natural disasters, being robbed, when you fall sick and riots are not common but they could happen. When these things happen you would want to know how the agency will take care of you. You should also find out about the refund policies, something might happen that could make you not to travel and you don’t want to lose your money.


This comes when you are planning where you are going to stay. The most common places to stay are hotels, hostels, and homestays and group homes. Many hotels have minimum set of standards and it’s easy to find out what you are paying for. Choosing a hostel, homestays and group homes are the ones travelers should pay particular attention to. Most people don’t take their time to look into what they are and not paying for. For example in group homes and homestays, they could offer you a bed or a bed mat, a table and electric outlet. In other occasions they could provide you with these things and more or not. Also hostels don’t give out much information on what they will offer you, or sometimes they provide you with false information.

Getting around

Getting around is hard for the first weeks in a foreign country, especially if you are going to be using public transport to get around. In some countries when you use buses or trains they are normally overcrowded and crammed and this can come as a surprise to you. While you are abroad get maps and book guides of the country you are in. Reading and understanding maps can become useful especially when you are lost. If you plan to ride a bicycle or a car, try to find out the traffic rules. As a pedestrian look out for signs to help you navigate through the city. In some countries motorists don’t pay much attention to pedestrians and extra care should be taken.

Credit Cards

Before you travel abroad contact your bank or Credit Card Company and inform them that you are travelling abroad. Inquire from them what their policies are abroad and what happens when you lose your cards either through robbery or bad luck. Ask them how you will be protected against fraud. Before you volunteer abroad ask if their cards can be used where you are going. Some credit card companies provide you with medical insurance; ask them if you also need additional travel insurance. Before you leave, contact a tax expert or accountant about taxation and find out if you will still be paying tax while you are abroad. This is mainly for volunteers who are planning to stay for a long period of time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

5 tips for a volunteer abroad homestay

A homestay is whereby a host family offers a guest, a private room or space at an affordable cost for a period of time. Most of the guests at homestays are international students, foreign exchange students, and internships relocations, international scholars, landed immigrants, international volunteers, gap year individuals, and cultural tourists. The main purpose of a homestay is to provide a home away from home to the guest. Homestay costs are a fraction of the cost as opposed to hotels and hostels. Homestays are a great way to experience the culture. As a volunteer you will get a new family to live with, in that you will have host parents, host brothers, host siblings and sometimes host nephews and nieces. In the home you will be living in you can choose the amount of work or responsibility that you want to be given in the home. You can do as much or as little as you want. The activities that are normally included are cooking, washing dishes, clothes, and cleaning. In most occasions you will have a private room to yourself, but sometimes you will share the room with another international volunteer. Most international volunteers remember their experience in the homestay other than their visits to tourist sites. To help you with your homestay, here are a couple of tips:


A homestay at first is somebody’s home, although you would be paying for accommodation and food, it is still a home. In the home you will find a family who are willing to give you a room and much more to what you are expecting to pay for. As a token of kindness and to help break the ice, carry a small gift to the family members. Before you leave for the homestay find out how many family members are there and who you will be living with. While you are at home, look for cheap and inexpensive gifts which can only be found in your home country. The gifts could be sweets for the kids, cheap jewelry for the girls and a bottle of alcohol or liquor for the men in the home. Try to find out what is appropriate for them. Giving gifts will make you look like a generous person and they will try and accommodate you longer. We are all glad to be given gifts.

Open minded

As you will be living in a new home and culture there are things that are bound to be different. The meals that you will be sharing will be totally different from what you are used to. Try to be open and eat their meals without being rude. Although do not change your beliefs, if you are a vegetarian don’t eat meat or if you are Muslim don’t eat pork or anything that infringes on your conscience. Be kind and appreciative to whatever is served on your plate by eating. In some countries and cultures insects are regarded as part of delicacies; and in some cultures all parts of cows and pigs are eaten from the meat to their tongues. There also could be habits which could be new to you like how they take a shower or how they raise kids. Do not judge them by their habits, but try to understand their culture and you will find their ways are different but they also work.


In the mornings, don’t be waking up too late in the morning. Don’t be the first one to wake up or the last one to wake up in the morning. You don’t want to be seen as lazy, by being the last one out of bed. Most of the time you would be having something to do in the morning, and you won’t have to wake up too late. But on the days you have nothing to do or have some obligation in the afternoon do not wake up to late. Wake up in time for breakfast and if possible try to help with making breakfast. Some cultures find it offensive to still be in bed when everyone has woken up.


Be thankful for everything the family decides to give you or do for you. If the host mom wants to wash your clothes do not refuse, just accept and be very grateful. When they bring for you food and any other thing be kind, gracious and make sure to thank them.


When the time for your departure has come, be kind and leave for them a small gift. Get for them a small token of gratitude to appreciate the time you had spent with them. If possible go out for lunch or dinner with them to recount the good times you had with them. Most volunteers leave the homestay and they stop communicating with the host family. They send one email and make one call and they forget the host family from there. Try and keep up to date with the host family whenever you can. This way you would have formed lifelong friendships, and the next time you go to that country you can stay with them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

5 Mistakes to avoid while volunteering abroad

Foreigners make mistakes while abroad, but each country is different and mistakes are not regarded as the same. While we are all human and we make mistakes most of the time, there are some mistakes that we can avoid. There are some mistakes although done subconsciously should be avoided as it affects your relationship with the people you are with and your stay in the country. The most common mistakes made while abroad are: not having insurance; not being aware of the travel policies; behaving like an arrogant tourist; not being cautious on how you address others; not being respectful to the laws; showing off; and not apologizing when you have made a mistake. As a foreigner it is best to try and avoid problems as resolving them is not easy and will make you feel victimized. The mistakes to avoid are:


While you are volunteering abroad, for a long period of time like for one month to three months you should watch your budget. It is not a short vacation where you can spend as much as you want and go back home and recover from the damage. Avoid overspending by travelling to every tourist hotspots; visiting the neighboring countries; going out to every night to pubs and restaurant; buying too many curios and souvenirs. In some occasions there have been volunteers who buy property too soon and their available budget is significantly reduced. When you are overseas, you will be on a budget and being wise with money will lead to you enjoying your vacation better. You can save money by curtailing your expenses and by making money abroad through blogging, digital nomading and having a creative online store.


Trusting people is important for friendships, but it is harder while abroad. Not everyone is trust worthy but when you are abroad you are more likely to be taken advantage of you. The local people will look at you like an ATM machine and try to take money from you. Also the other foreigners who are with you will try to take advantage of you. When you ask for advice from these people some of them will not give you the best advice for one reason or the other. Do not accept any advice you are being given whole heartedly, ask for a second opinion to make a better decision. When dealing with money issues be very careful especially with boy or girlfriend romance. You may be given the wrong advice from the people you ask not because they are malicious but because they had a different experience from you. They will be giving you advice based on their experience.


Some volunteers who are abroad spend a majority of their time communicating with their friends and family who are at home. They spend so much time communicating with them so that they don’t experience the life abroad. Due to the advent of technology keeping in touch with people is not hard. You can talk to your friends and family through facebook, twitter, Skype, Emails and many other resources. But spending too much time with your home friends will lead to you missing out on your new friends and your experience. This is especially common to volunteers who get homesick. Keep in touch with your family and friends but don’t get carried away and do it too much.


Some volunteers leave home with a predefined perception of what they are getting into. Some think the luxuries they have left behind will be found where they are going. When they arrive in the host country and they find the conditions are basic they are normally disappointed. Also when they go work in their volunteer programs they have expectations to how the work will be and the working environment. While abroad you should have an open mind and you should be flexible to the new environment and conditions. To prevent to have high and or too low of an expectation, you should ask around and talk to people who have gone where you are going. You should research the place you are going to on the internet and find out as much as you can.


As a female volunteer you are at more risk than male volunteers. When you are abroad avoid wearing flashy and attractive jewelry that would make you stand out. You should also dress appropriately to avoid offending the people with whom you are living and working with. Avoid travelling to high risk areas and try to always travel in group. You should let your embassy know you have arrived in that country and the things you will be doing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Volunteer abroad transportation

It is important to consider means of transportation and commuting when planning your volunteer abroad trip. There are various means of transport available depending on the country in which you are going. You could travel by road, rail, ship or plane, depending on the location of your program project and country you are going to. If you are going to stay in a foreign country as a volunteer, back packer, study abroad student, gap year traveler or just a traveler, for a month or longer you should find out what are the best means to travel while you are there. The most common means of transport is public transport which is sometimes run by the national government, or sometimes could be run by the city and in some case the tourist centres. Choosing the best way to travel depends on your budget and the resources that are available to you. While you are abroad you could travel by:


Travelling by plane is the most popular especially if you are going to travel over long distances. Unfortunately it is also the most expensive way to travel. Younger adults (26 years and younger) can use International Student Identity Card (ICIS), International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) and Youth Hostel Association (YHA) to get discounts on flights. Booking in advance can allow you to take advantage of flight deals and discounts. During the long flight hours try to make yourself comfortable by wearing loose fitting clothes and carry anything that would entertain you during the flight. If you suffer from airsickness, get motion sickness tablets, they will help you during your flight. Follow the airlines’ regulations and rules for everyone’s’ safety.


Travelling by boat is common in areas that have islands, or in places that don’t have access to bridges. In places like Italy there are many waterways and the preferred way to travel is by boat. For safety, you should check whether the vessel has been registered for voyages; the marine conditions of the area; and travel advisories at the dock. To overcome seasickness you can get medication from a doctor, wear a special wrist band that controls your pulse rate and try to stay on the deck to a catch of the breeze. In some remote villages on islands, you will have to travel by boat. In these places, there will be dhows available and you have to be very careful when travelling by them.

Train and buses

Public transportation is different in every country and is through trains and busses. Trains are sometimes the best means of transport because they are cheaper than planes and more comfortable than busses. When backpacking across Europe travelling by train is the most effective means of transportation. You can save money on trains by using ICIS, IYTC and YTH cards if you are a young adult. Trains are relatively safe, with very few accidents occurring but you should keep your travel documents and personal documents very safe in your hand luggage. In trains you are more prone to be robbed or pick-pocketed especially on the train stations. Traveling by bus is more comfortable especially if you are travelling for shorter periods. Although the new rules and routes could be intimidating, take a local friend with you to help you navigate. You can get a public transportation map, to help you and learn how to stop the bus.

Car and motor bikes

Travelling by car is very comfortable especially for short distances. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from AAR so as to drive any part of the world. You could either buy or rent a car for the period of you volunteer abroad. Traffic rules and regulations vary with the country for example in some countries they drive on the left while in others they drive on right side. When renting or buying a car, insure it and don’t rent something too exotic that will attract attention. For safety, follow the traffic rules, don’t leave valuables in the car, and don’t drive at night. Motor bikes are great for avoiding traffic jams and parking fees.

Bicycles and walking

This is the most inexpensive mode of transport. It’s the best way of keeping fit and works best if you live close to your school or volunteer project. For safety don’t walk at night and follow the pedestrian traffic rules. Also don’t wear clothes that will attract too much attention; wear expensive jewelry and carry your handbag close to you.