Volunteer Abroad Testimonials
It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw
This article/blog is dedicated to past international volunteers who have gone abroad. It is a testament to their work in various third world countries. It is also a brief glimpse of their lives while they were working, their experiences, good or bad; disappointments; living conditions; the country they are in; advice to future or potential volunteers and the view of the volunteering. The testimonials are from volunteers who worked for a week to those who have worked for years. The testimonies have been edited to fit the articles/ blog. Here are the testimonies:
Sandra Rzeszutko -USA
Kenya is a wonderful country; I enjoyed the weather immensely and was impressed with the beautiful scenery and wonderful people. My host family was perfect, I grew to care for them all very deeply and hope to see them again someday. Culturally, I found the small town I lived in to be lacking in modern technology such as running water (we used a well) and that few people had refrigerators. I must confess I had doubts about being able to cope, but within 24 hours I was totally comfortable, due mostly to my host family and the town residents. Everyone was friendly and I was greeted by all. Despite originally visiting Kenya for wildlife, I must say I was most impressed with the people. They are extremely hard working, very proud and considerate of others. I was humbled by how few amenities they had yet they live contented in what I considered to be hardship. I learned to love seeing simple things like women hand washing clothes, carrying babies on their back and old men gathered for a game of checkers.
Daniel Dickerson USA
The people of Ghana are much more friendly and welcoming than I expected. During my stay I did not experience a single situation where I was made to feel uncomfortable. The gracious nature of the people here appears to the result of or at least enhanced by the active participation by most people in church programs. Many schools are responsible by the Methodist, Presbyterian or Catholic Church. One of my highlights during our stay in Ghana was attending a local church and being welcomed by the entire congregation. The country itself is from ocean to the mountains and throughout the lush vegetation. The weather is hot but not intolerable, especially in the mountain. Our host family truly made us feels as if we were part of their family. They took care of us well.
Jessica De Vos Australian
The local staff (South Africa) was very helpful. The project was different to what I expected but then I grew to know the kids more and what type of lives they live then I began enjoying it and had the feeling I was helping more. I think the experience was worthwhile and I enjoyed every minute of it. Meeting people from different cultures is one of the perks, lifestyles, fitting in with local life, spending time with a different family, learning about different societies, teaching and playing and loving the children. This program I would agree is very worth the money and is an excellent experience to open my mind and learn about different people and cultures. Thanks for all your help throughout the past months
Katherine Potter United kingdom
My most memorable experience was sitting in the lighthouse bar on the Bund, overlooking the Pudong skyline whilst practicing some of the Mandarin that I had learnt on my placement. It made me really what an amazing place Shanghai is and how much I had learnt and experienced in the 2 months that I was there.
Corey Stilts – Russia
Everything about Costa Rica was a phenomenal adventure the sights, the wildlife, the entire country. Even more amazing than that, however, were the times I spent with the children Caesar, Jose, Hannah, they all brightened my day and made each day I was in Costa Rica special.
Sarah, New Zealand
I still think of my Peru experience daily, and I have felt even more connected to my friends in Ayacucho and Lima as I have been reading back through my journal from last summer. My 8 weeks in Peru still proves to be one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and I am forever grateful to the volunteer company for giving me that opportunity. I have jumped at every chance to share my story and want you to continue putting people in touch with me.
Volunteer Abroad Travel insurance
You will need travel insurance when you plan to volunteer abroad. Most companies that organize travel trips insist or recommend you having travel insurance. Travel insurance is an insurance that is intended to cover medical expenses, financial and other losses incurred while travelling. Travel insurance can be gotten directly from insurance companies, travel agents and travel suppliers. The insurance covers student travel, business travel, leisure travel, adventure travel, cruise travel and international travel. Buying travel insurance is tricky especially when finding the right plan for you that will cover you extensively. Travel insurance covers you against risks such as severe weather, last minute cancellations, terrorist attacks, emergency/accidental care, and travel delays, missed connections, lost baggage etc. Most people buy travel insurance so that they are medically covered when they are abroad; they don’t want to lose money due to cancellations and others want to prevent losing their luggage and travel documents. There are various companies to buy travel insurance from depending on your location, price and what you want. Some insurance companies provide travel insurance which is niche specific where they specialize in student travel; others offer simple policies for everyday travelers, some offer just medical insurance or evacuation plans. Depending on what plan you want there are generally two types of plans which are package plans and travel medical plans. When planning to buy travel insurance consider the following: Trip Cancellation insurance Trip cancellation coverage provides reimbursement for lost travel expenses if you need to cancel your trip. Unexpected events like sickness, death, severe weather, industrial strike, terrorist incidents, something happens to your destination residence, theft of travel documents like passports, financial default by tour operator, and you may be needed back at work. Trip cancellation insurance is important because some volunteer abroad fees are expensive which can go up to $ 5,000. With some organizations you are asked to plan early in advance in order to confirm a place with them. In such a situation during the period of waiting a lot can happen and you may need to cancel your trip. Also volunteer abroad programs involve a lot of several stops and connections and they have a higher risk of problems and things to go wrong. Trip cancellation is important as you may choose to volunteer as a group or as a family and you may need to cancel because one of you may fall sick. This will save the money that could have been lost. Depending on the insurance company you use, they each have a number of reasons for you to cancel and they will reimburse you. Trip cancellation coverage should be bought early in advance to make sure you get the full benefits. Medical insurance Health insurance from your country only covers you while you are at home. When you decide to volunteer abroad you will need travel insurance. Travel insurance takes care of medical coverage while you are volunteering abroad. When you are abroad despite of the vaccinations you are given you are still prone to be infected by indigenous diseases. The coverage includes being taken to hospital, being treated, charges for hospital stays, the cost of drugs, and evacuation back to your home country. Medical insurance is important since when you are in a foreign country and you might know where the hospital is. Also they may be speaking in a foreign language and getting help might be a bit difficult. When you are evacuated back to your home country, they will take you straight to hospital for further treatment. When buying medical insurance, inform them of your preexisting conditions to make sure you are fully covered. Other advantages Travel insurance covers against lost or damage baggage. This happens a lot due to connecting many different flights. It also protects against your property being stolen. There are some occasions when you arrive at your destination and your baggage is delayed. The cover includes reimbursement of essential items like toiletries, and basic clothing. Some companies offer extra coverage on car rental damage protection, identity theft, and adventure travel coverage. Consult your travel agent on which is the best insurance company to use and what exactly they cover Examples of travel insurance companies There are many companies, travel agents and specialty travel companies that provide travel insurance. They vary greatly on price and what they offer or cover. Many travelers use the following Cultural Insurance Services International, CMI Insurance Specialists, iNext Travel Card and International Student Insurance. There are many more companies choose wisely.
Volunteer abroad: pre-trip planning
There are around 1.6 million volunteers who have left home to go and volunteer in different parts of the world. Some of them planned as early as two years in advance on when they are going to volunteer and what they would do. While for some of them it took less than two weeks to plan and leave home. Depending on the individual, early planner or late planner, it is advisable to plan in advance for a volunteer abroad trip. Advance preparation helps the volunteer to: make everything ready before leaving; taking advantage of budget deals; get time to sort out finances; have more options and avoid last minute problems. Volunteers who use volunteer travel organizations don’t have to plan much as they are helped by the organizations and they oversee everything. However volunteers who are travelling independently will be forced to plan in advance so as to make the most of their trip.
Here are a couple of more reasons to plan in advance:
Every country has travel advisories on various destinations. The countries use their embassies to get information of the country they are in. The embassies provide their governments with regular advice about travelling in that country. These regular updates are used by the governments to warn its citizens about traveling in a particular country. They warn about the safety of travelling in a country. They warn against terrorism threats, government being overthrown and natural disasters. Volunteers should pay attention to these warnings especially during these times when many of the governments in Arab nations are being over thrown. The travel warnings also help avoid natural disasters like the one in Japan and New Zealand. With these warnings the volunteer could have adequate time to change the country in which they are planning to go to.
When the volunteer has picked a program months in advance of their departure date they can find out as much as possible about the volunteer abroad program. They can talk directly to the organization that is providing the program. They can find out exactly what they will be doing; the expectations; rules and regulations; dress code; and what they can bring. There will be adequate time to find out about the country. During this time they could research about the country find out about: currency; culture; national language; norms and population. They can time to read through guide books and look at maps to know how to move around.
During pre-trip planning the volunteers will look at where they will be staying. They can find out about the accommodation that will be available to them, form homestay, hotel, hostel, dormitories and group homes. They can also decide which option is the best accommodation that will fit in their budget. If they are going to stay in a homestay they can communicate directly to the host and find out if the home is a perfect fit for them. During this time they can find out what is being provided in each hotel, hostel and group home.
Pre-trip check list
The checklist is prepared to make sure the volunteer will have gotten everything they require for their trip. The list could include: things to buy; vaccination required; passports visas and flight insurance; air tickets and many more. Making a list will help be organized and help them to prepare for everything in a timely manner. This way they will be able to deal with unexpected issues that could crop up on the way.