Volunteering abroad

Interested in volunteering overseas?

Volunteer Bristol doesn’t organise overseas placements, but as you might be interested in trying it out, we’ve included some information for you. Please bear in mind that we are not formally linked to any of these organisations, so take care to thoroughly investigate any organisations or companies before making any arrangements.

How do I start?

There has been a large growth of organisations in the UK that place volunteers abroad on projects as well as a growth in ‘voluntourism’. Different organisations provide a mixture of services and experiences which is why research is important. The Ethical Volunteering website is a good starting point – have a look at their ethical volunteering guide. In terms of finding organisations, check out the World Wide Volunteering site too. It’s got a searchable database of organisations and opportunities.   

Practical points to consider

  • Length of time is a critical factor as projects vary from short-term placements of a few weeks to longer-term projects of two years or more.
  • Most organisations will ask you to pay an administration fee for arranging the trip for you – what do you get for that money?
  • It’s important to check whether the project provides for travel, accommodation, food and pocket money.
  • Most projects ask for people with particular skills or experience.
  • Many agencies are small and will place a limited number of volunteers.
  • Some organisations are aimed at those with particular religious beliefs.
  • Applications to do overseas voluntary work should be made well in advance, so planning is key.

Checking out organisations

It’s important that you check out any organisation thoroughly before handing over your money or leaving the country. Ask if you can be put in touch with people who have been on their projects before. If possible try to speak to someone who has volunteered with them in person rather than trusting testimonials. In particular find out about the support and training the organisation gives its volunteers once they are overseas.

Look at insurance very carefully; will you need your own travel insurance, does their insurance cover you for the kind of work that you’ll be doing, what would happen if you needed to get back to the UK? What support would the organisation give you?

Think carefully about the kind of work that you will be doing; is there a genuine need for volunteers to do this or has the opportunity been created as an adventure holiday? Spend some time researching the country that you want to go to, especially the political situation, climate, health and security.