How to choose the best volunteering abroad project for you

With so many options to chose from, making a decision about which volunteering abroad project to take part in can be quite tricky. At Kaya alone we have over 200 projects in 27 countries, in a range of sectors, from wildlife and environmental conservation to community, health and education work. By taking a bit of time to consider some questions about what is important to you, and getting advice from a placement advisor, you can start narrowing down those options and identifying a project that is the best match for you.

Diving Volunteering Activity

We have identified 4 key areas and the most relevant questions that you need to think about when choosing your project. Some of these will have more importance to certain people than to others, as everyone has different criteria:

Location:

  • Where would you like to go? Is there a particular country/continent that you have in mind? Research the locations on your shortlist, so you know what questions to ask.
  • Consider the environment you are happy to live and work in.  Do you prefer an urban or rural setting? Can you live in a busy city, or a small island, or in the rainforest?
  • Accommodation-wise, are you happy living with a home-stay family or would you prefer a communal volunteer house? Home stay options are most often cheaper and allow you to really integrate with your local hosts. Volunteer houses are most often dorm-style sleeping arrangements. Accommodation in rural areas is generally more basic than in cities. Standards vary greatly. Running hot water is not often the norm. Air conditioning is rare. Ask about things that are important to you.

Type of work

  • What do you want to do?  Think about your interests – do you want to work with animals, the environment, children, adults, sporting activities, sea life, health-care? There are projects with very specific focuses, or you can work on more general projects.
  • What will you be doing?  Are you happy performing the volunteer tasks and duties listed?  Do you want to do physical work?  Do you mind getting dirty?  Are you prepared to get fully involved in that work? As a volunteer you will have to carry out all aspects of the job – not just the areas you find enjoyable.

Volunteers working on road building and conservation in Bolivia

Timings

  • Is there a time of year that you want to travel?  It is useful to look at the climate as this may well affect your decision – too hot or too wet can really change your experience.
  • What will be the length of your stay? The longer you stay at the project, the more involved you will be able to get. Short projects are more practical for manual work, where developing relationships takes time.  Be realistic with what you can get involved with in the time you have available.

Personal motivation

  • There are many things to think about in your reasons to volunteer and what you want to get out of it. By being honest about these, you are more likely to achieve those goals.
  • Do you have any specific skills or knowledge that you want to use and share?  Or do you want to do something completely new and different?
  • Are you looking for specific work experience activities for your CV/resume?
  • Do you want a placement alongside other volunteers, or do you prefer somewhere more individual and integrated with the local community? Placement advisors can advise you on projects and locations that best fit this.
  • Are you looking for more spare time to travel and explore, or so you want more hours volunteering? Different projects have different hours, but they all require your commitment.  If you want to have more time off to travel or relax, ask which placements are more flexible, or arrange time after your program to travel.

Volunteer assisting with mealtimes at a children’s project in India

By thinking about these questions, this will help you narrow down your options and give your placement advisor more information to guide your choice. Remember, whichever placement you chose, for whatever reasons, flexibility will still be required, as there are many factors that shape each individual placement at any time, and not everything will always go to plan.  But by starting off with the best project for you, you are more likely to be able to make a real difference and make the most of your time on the project.

So, start your planning today! Check out Kaya’s project options by project type or destination here on our website, request our PDF brochures, to review offline, or email our placement advisors with the answers to these questions, so we can start advising you right away.

To speak in person to a Kaya Placement Advisor about your options you can also call on 0161 870 6212 (UK) or 1413 517 0266 (US).