It seems like every day there is a new volunteer-sending organization popping up. Growth in the field is great because it means that more and more people have the chance to volunteer abroad. But the sheer number of opportunities to choose from can make it confusing for someone just starting to think about volunteering internationally. Unfortunately there are some organization out there that misrepresent themselves. One of the most common questions for someone looking to volunteer is “How do I know if an organization is legit?”. This is an important question to ask. People don’t want to be a victim of a scam or fraud nor do they want to throw away their money on an experience they feel does not have value.
The first step in having a great experience and truly make and impact in the communities you plan on visiting is to find the right organization. Below are some steps to guide you to the right organization for you.
- Know what type of experience you are looking for. Decide the answers to the obvious questions for example:
- How long do you want to volunteer for?
- Is there a specific country or region you want to travel to?
- What type of service or project do you hope to be involved in?
- Do you want to be with other volunteers or on your own?
- How much do you plan on spending?
- Next, start researching. Just because an organization has a great website does not mean that they are reputable. Talk to the organization and ask questions, lots of them. Some questions to consider:
- Can I talk to a former volunteer?
- What does my program fee pay for?
- Will I be interacting with employees from the sending organization when I am on the ground?
- Will I receive training before I leave?
- What is your refund policy?
- How long has the sending organization been operating?
- Does the sending organization partner with local NGO’s in-country?
- If there is an emergency how can my family reach me or vice-versa?
This is just a short list of questions you might consider. You can see more here. The important thing is to make an educated decision that you feel good about, then you can move forward and prepare for a great international experience, volunteering and making a difference.